December 7, 2006

Infinite Campus

This week we had the last guest, Mr. Barry Brahier and leaned about Infinite Campus, by which teachers can manage students’ grades, attendance and other information about students. Since I taught in Japan, I actually didn't know such a useful assessment technology and many school districts in Minnesota adopt this tool. In Japanese schools, most teachers do assessment almost manually. Although we use OCR (optical character reader) and Microsoft Excel, we are required some manual procedures. I was surprised at Mr. Brahier's lecture and thought Japanese schools should incorporate such a system because manual assessing is time consuming and one of the most important aspects of Infinite Campus I believe is that parents also can see their children’s grades and work. In Japan, parents can know just their children’s final grades, but don’t know their learning process from quiz results and homework. Japanese schools should introduce assessment systems so that parents can be involved in their children’s education in school.

November 30, 2006

Geometer Sketch Pad

I thought this tool was interesting for students. However, I don’t know whether students can learn math effectively by thinking in their own heads. Although it is said that Japanese students’ math achievement has been decreasing these days according PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment), it is still among the highest in the world. I think that is because Japanese students seldom use calculators and any computer tools but use a set square and a pair of compasses and think how they can make triangles, rhombuses, and parallelograms. They also solve function problems by imagining and calculating in their heads. It is true this tool may motivate students, especially lower achievement students. However, I think it may stop students’ thinking process. I don’t know much about math education, but I believe teachers should use computer tools in the way their students can think actively.

November 9, 2006

Google Earth

I was so excited to watch the earth moving! We can see any countries and places in classrooms and at home. I think it is a very useful tool not only for social studies but also EFL (English as Foreign Language). In my classroom, there are many students who don't know where America, China, and Africa are located. In classes, we often read about foreign cultures in English. If my students use google earth, they will be able to know where the main character in the text lives, how far it is from Japan, and how the town in which s/he lives is like. Thereby, they will be able to be motivated to reading the English text and interested in other foreign countries. In addition, when the students know that the main character in the text has the same feelings as the students have although s/he lives very far from where the students live, they will be able to learn that we are all same human beings as well as cultural differences. Actually, I have used a world map made of paper and also even wrote a map by myself so that my students could know where other countries are. Now that I know the more useful tool, I will definitely use this tool, google earth, in my classes.

November 1, 2006

Reflection on "Schooling and Learning in an Information Society"

This article was difficult for me. But what I can say definitely is that schools are never same as other institutions for business. Although I'm not sure about the actual situation of business, I think even if business institutions use a lot of technologies, they just deal with information, and transport information to others such as by email, powepoint for conferences and so on. On the other hand, using technologies in schools allow students to use their cognitive tools. Students sometimes see what most business people think right from critical point of view, and have conversation with other students and teachers in class and create new sense of value. It may be true when the author says that schools will be no longer dominant places to transform culture to next generation, but it is true in terms of "communication of information". That is, I believe creating new ideas and sense of value for students' future and human life is mainly in schools. Therefore, technologies must be used to contribute to that kind of learning, not just dealing with information.

October 25, 2006

Reflection on "Public School Teachers Using Machines in the Next Decade"

When I was in Japan, I thought why we didn’t incorporate computers into our classrooms more, although they were like essential items for our lives. I thought that was because a lack of teachers’ (including me) skills and knowledge of computers, and a lack of appropriate environment for learning with computers (e.g. a lack of available computers per student). In my Japanese school (private school), there were only 3 teachers out of 40 who were familiar with computers and taught computers in their classes. However, they didn’t teach English, math, social studies, or science with computers, but just taught how to use computers (e.g. MS Excel, Word, PowerPoint). Moreover, in Japanese universities, not until 2002 were computer courses incorporated into teaching licensure program.
As the author argues, while it may be true that slow incorporating computers into classrooms is attributed to unprepared teachers and insufficient fund, the Japanese Ministry of Education and society have still little perception of using computers in the classroom. Their perception is teaching the computer itself (how to use), not teaching with computers.
However, I think each of us in Japan, as teachers, needs to change such a perception and rethink about computers and learning in school. In fact, I personally have changed my understanding of computers and teaching English, and have found interest of teaching with technologies. I didn’t have any ideas although I and my students wanted to use computers in my classes. So I think this course CI5351 is really helpful for me.

October 18, 2006

Reflection on "The Computer Delusion"

In Japan, children’s decreased physical strength has been controversial. They tend to get tired easily even with slight exercise. It is said that children’s overmuch using computers is one of the reasons. Children don’t go outside but play computer games, brows on the Internet, write blogs, and email their friends till the late hours of the night. They also do their homework with computers.
Although I believe that incorporating technology into classrooms is really valuable for children’s effective learning, yet, while reading this article, I realized that it may also negatively impact children’s more important things as a human being: “physical strength?, and “spirit?. In Japan, these two and “intelligence? have been traditionally emphasized in school education. But now, “physical strength? and “spirit? may be destroyed in order to develop only “intelligence? with technologies. Children’s physical strength is actually decreased and their rich spirit may be not fostered with virtual reality. Because children know computers more than adults do and adults respect the children’s familiarity with computers, I think adults tend to miss those more important things. Because it is also true that unmotivated and struggling readers become to read and get interested in literatures thanks to technologies, adults are absolutely-fascinated with great technology effects. That may reinforce the tendency of children’s using computers in learning.
Therefore, although I still believe that technologies should be incorporated into classrooms because they do exist now and they provide children effective learning, I think teachers and parents should pay more attention to how children use computers and what they see and read on computers. I also think they should show their children that computers may also harm the children, and importance to play sports with their friends outside and to make something with their own hands without digital tools.

October 11, 2006

Reflection on Constructivism in the Classroom

While I was reading this article, I remembered what Herbert M. Kleibard (2002) stated “The injunction to keep order has become so supreme that it simply swamps the teaching function? (p. 132). Because it is nearly common idea that a teacher is regarded as a good teacher if s/he keeps order in a classroom, most teachers don’t venture to break the order with the knowledge that students’ independent projects, inquiries, and discussion would be better for students’ effective learning.
I also think one can argue that teachers tend to teach by the way they were taught. In my case, I have never been taught any subject areas with any technologies. I was just sitting quietly and listening to my teachers talked. So did other classmates. So, not only teachers who have been taught like that feel uncomfortable in the noisy classroom, but also they don’t have any ideas to create the new style teaching.
However, technologies do exist in the present and are open to students for effective learning. By reading this article, I felt a deep need to learn more about how to use technologies in teaching for students’ effective learning with motivation and engagement although I was struggling with PowerPoint and have trouble with Web page designing now.

Kleibard, H. M. (2002). Changing Course: American Curriculum Reform in the 20th Century. NY: Teachers College Press

October 5, 2006

Reflection on Exploring the Blogsphere

I was excited to read this article. I was teaching English as a foreign language in Japan. This article gave me really good ideas to develop students' English and critical thinking skills.
There are so many Japanese students who don't know why they learn English. English has been required in order to take competitive entrance exams of college in Japan. It is not practicul English. I was often asked from my students, "Why do we have to study English?" Then I just answered "You will have to speak English when you travel abroad." "I won't go abroad!", students said. I was not able to find any other good answers for students, but I believe most of the Japanese students will need to speak English in the future because of the globalized society in Japan. In fact, I am in the US!
However, students now want to know the reason why they are learning English, and they want to learn it with interest and motivation if possible. Then, I think using blog in my class is be a very good idea. Because students usually don't go to foreign countries and don't know much about other cultures, if they read blogs of some Japanese people who are in the US, England, Australia, or other English-speaking countries in Japanese, they will get surprised at different cultures and interested in them. They also can try to respond to the blogs in English and read other students' responses in English.
I believe they will be able to develop their reading and writing skills, and ciriticul thinking skill through those discussions on blogs, even for shy students who often cannot say their opinions in a classroom.

September 27, 2006

Learning With Technology: Using Computers as Cognitive Tools

I learned from this article that students should use computers in order to develop their abilities to think, rather than just collecting information and keeping a diary on a blog because computers' roll is not only giving much information but also encouraging students to think and learn with their heads.
However, in Japan, it is said that penetration of computers is later than the US by approximately two decades, much less using in class. Surprisingly, there are still some students who cannot touch-type and have trouble even browsing websites. On the other hand, some students make blogs and their own websites by themselves. Because each student's level of using computer is various, we teachers need to teach how to use computers from scratch when we use computers in class. Also, there are quite a few teachers who are familiar with computers. Therefore, students tend to just collect information, browsing websites in class. Even if some students' making blogs is a surprise for me because I'm a poor computer user, they seem to be just keeping diaries. They can do it on paper too.
In short," They do not think!" The Japanese is especially not good at critical thinking because we have been taught knowledge-based education for a long long time due to competitive college entrance examination. Then I hope using computers as cognitive tools in class will be a big chance for students to become aware of critical thinking and develop the ability for their future. To realize it, I believe we teachers need to develop our computer skills enough to encourage students to learn effectively.

September 19, 2006

Hypertext and the Changing Roles of Readers

I strongly agree to Patterson’s last words that we will adapt to hypertext with as much ease or as much difficulty as we adapt to a changing larger culture. Even though there are pros and cons of whether we should use hypertext in class or not, now that it really exists and students are interested in using computers, we should adjust to the changing in order to create better instructions for students.
Hypertext changes not only students’ roles as readers but also teachers’ roles. I think teachers become facilitators, who encourage students to think without giving answers and to collect materials, and put what students do together. Especially in my country, Japan, teachers tend to “teach? knowledge, giving answers to students and students just need to memorize those answers. American students, who say their opinions and feelings more often in class, might not be able to believe it, but that is the most popular Japanese instruction. We Japanese teachers have discussed teachers’ roles as facilitators these days.
Therefore, I think using hypertext is very helpful for especially Japanese students to develop their abilities to think and construct their ideas because paper text makes students more passive than hypertext. They can’t manage it as they like. From this article, I learned some hints of teachers’ roles as facilitators in using hypertext in class.