November 16, 2006

Online Learning

Although I have never taken an online class, I am very interested in the prospect. My district began a pilot program of online classes two years ago, and I am excited at the possibility of teaching one in the future. The online offering for math in our district this year was Algebra 2, which is not exactly my favorite subject, but I would have embraced the opportunity to teach anything online. Oh well, perhaps in the future!

November 9, 2006

Google Earth...Cool or Scary?

I was first introduced to Google Earth about a year ago while visiting my sister in Seattle, WA. My brother-in-law just had to show me this really cool new thing from Google. As he opened Google Earth and started showing me some of the features, I thought, "Man, this is really neat!" We only had a couple minutes to check it out, so I filed this away for the future.

I proceeded to go home and forget about Google Earth for about 6 months until my wife left for Italy. (She spent the summer there on a Fulbright Scholarship). I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to revisit Google Earth. At first, I was able to find the town where my wife was, then zoomed in and found the building, and finally, all the way down to the balcony of her room at the villa she was staying at!

This was a very cool use of Google earth, but at the same time, it's a little scary knowing we are always being watched by someone (even if it isn't a live feed).

October 19, 2006

Reflection on "The Computer Delusion:

There is no question in my mind that children are beginning learning on computers too early. Today's parents, in their never-ending quest to protect their children would rather have their child sitting on the computer in the corner of the living room then running around and playing outside. After all, it doesn't matter if my child is obese because he doesn't exercise, a lot of kids are. And, it doesn't matter if my kid doesn't develop any social relations with other kids, he can talk to people online. Or, my personal favorite, my kid has to get a head start on all the other kids so he can get a better job when he grows up.

What we really need to improve education is a diverse course offering. When I read that art and music programs were cut for a computer program, I got sick to my stomach. In study after study, it has been proven that increased art and music education lead to better scores on math standardized tests. I am quite sure that the ability to use a computer program has very little to do with the development of the brain. As the author said, "we [kids in a classroom] were happy [on computer days] because we had an hour that we didn't have to think..."

It may sound as if I am completely against technology in education. That is not true at all. What I advocate is that schools and teachers use technology the way it was meant to be used - as a tool. What many of the mentioned programs are trying to do is to use it as a curriculum, or even worse, as a substitute teacher. We also need to teach children how to use these tools in a meaningful way. Would you teach a child what a hammer does by telling him to hit his knee with it? Of course not, but this is what we are, in effect, doing when we set a first grader in front of a computer. The child must learn the limits of the physical world before simulating the limits on a computer.

One additional point: the most disconcerting aspect of computer use in an educational setting is the associated demise of the development of interpersonal skills. If a child does not grow up learning to respect adults and peers, what kind of an adult will he be? Surely not one that I would want to be associated with.

September 27, 2006

Sometimes I'm really organized...

...but most of the time I'm helplessly lost! I have been crazily (adverb?) scrambling to complete the powerpoint presentation that I was absolutely sure was due 9/28. Alas, it is due 10/5. Oh well, at least this time I was done with the project a week early! The alternative is not nearly as nice.

The online education community was very interesting last week. My only problem with online organizations/communities is that they tend to stray from the focus or topic. I much prefer the more disciplined discussion that occurs in person. I will probably continue to visit the site as a resource, but I don't see myself as a regular member.

September 20, 2006

Hypertext and the Changing Roles of Readers

I agree completely with the author's supposition that reading hypertext is a completely different experience than reading print literature. I would even go so far as to say that the author has failed to note the various types of hypertext she describes are different in and of themselves.

Reading (and writing) in a chatroom is different from reading and writing on an electronic bulletin board is different from reading information on a web page. All three of these types of media (along with print media, of course) have different levels of reader involvement. In a chatroom, the reader is reading and responding in the here and now. On a bulletin board, the reader reads, writes, and contemplates while awaiting a response. Reading a webpage is closer to reading a novel - a one-way discourse, however, as the author stated, the reader does have more control over what aspects of the literature are read.

A final comment: I am not convinced this is something we need to spend a lot of time teaching students. Rather, our students should spend a lot of time teaching us! Students are already reading hypertext at a high level! Certainly higher than those of us who "snuck away to read while avoiding chores."

Learning with Technology:Using Computers as Cognitive Tools

I was very fascinated with the concept of experiential thinking vs. reflective thinking. Until I read this paper, I had never even contemplated the difference. I did (and knew how to do) each automatically. The idea that reflective thinking required thought and outside references and other people was, for lack of a better description, "pre-programmed" in me.

Since reading the article, I have been observant of the type of thinking my students engage in. Even my highest level students are universally "experiential thinkers." Not only must we as educators show our students the difference between the two, we must also require them to engage in both types of thinking regularly. In one of my classes, I have a student that always blurts out an answer nearly before I have completed asking the question. This student is clearly using his experiences as the basis for his response. How else would he be able to answer (incorrectly or correctly) so quickly, in fact, reflexively?

I am going to do an experiment in my Pre-Calculus Honors classes. I will spend some time teaching and explaining the difference between the two types of thinking, and whenever I ask a question, I will preface with the words, "experiential" or "reflective" and then require that the appropriate type of thinking be used. I foresee students asking the question, "How long do I have to think for?" My preplanned response is that reflective thinking is not measured by time, but by resources. We'll see how that goes over. :)

Results from experiment to follow...keep your eye peeled!

Homeworkspot.com

http://www.homeworkspot.com/

This is the link for Homeworkspot.com. I find the site very useful for myself and my students and parents.

September 12, 2006

PowerPoint is Evil

While reading the article PowerPoint is Evil, by Edward Tufte, I laughed out loud several times! Tufte is so right on that he couldn’t possibly have hit the nail any more on the head than he did.

I reflected upon recent presentations and training sessions I have been to that involved PowerPoint® presentations. I can honestly say that I remember very little of the presentations, but could accurately judge the quality of the slides that were presented! It is a sad state of public speaking today that the audience need not hear the speech, only witness the “great slides.?

From now forward, I will always refer to this article before using a PowerPoint® presentation! You can’t call me Stalin!

PowerPoint® is a registered trademark of the Microsoft Corporation and I have used it without any authorization from Bill Gates or any representative of Microsoft.

Mindtools

For the most part, the authors of the paper, Computers as Mindtools for Engaging Learners in Critical Thinking, seemed intent on stating facts as they see them rather than drawing conclusions or accepting alternative hypotheses. The one salient point the authors had was that all too often in education, we as educators are asking students to perform tasks that are much better suited to computers. We should encourage our students to make decisions, judgements and provide direction to their learning rather than memorize topics, ideas and formulas. If the use of some of these MindTools can facilitate that, I am all for it! Bring 'em on!!!!!!!!

September 8, 2006

Reflection on Week 1

This week I experienced two firsts: Inspiration Concept Mapping software, and creating my own blog.

Inspiration - The software was very user-friendly and easy to figure out "on the fly." It will be of great use to the students in enabling them to see the "big picture" of major projects. Often times, students learn a sub-topic without being able to connect it to other sub-topics and topics. By using a concept map, I can help students see it all.

Blog - The blog was easy to create. For some reason, I had always thought I would have to pay for blog space. I'm glad the class forced me to take the time to finally start one.

Other Thoughts - Seems like a good group of people to work with. I look forward to learning and sharing new ideas. I also learned from reading some other blogs that I am not the ONLY one who has never done this!

September 7, 2006

My first blog entry

I managed to successfully do this in under 17 hours! I'm so tecnologically astute!