Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Journal #9

Are Schools Inhibiting 21st Century Learning?
By Dave Nagel

In this article the author discusses the results of a survey, conducted by Project Tomorrow, which polled about 360,000 teachers, students, and administrators about the use of technology in schools. This survey has been conducted every year for the last five years. According to this article students are way ahead of their parents and teachers when it comes to their usage of technologies both in their personal lives and for educational purposes. Although the survey indicates that teachers, parents, and administrators are excited about the possibilities offered by technology and are eager to learn more about ways to explore these possibilities, there is nevertheless a disconnect between educators and students.
Many students feel that school "security" practices, such as Web filtering, are limiting their ability to take advantage of technology for learning. They feel that teachers and school IT departments are doing just throwing up barriers to learning with the very technology that's supposed to facilitate it. They are not satisfied with the manner and extent to which technology has been integrated into their education.

Students and teachers do share some views though. For example, both groups are enthusiastic about the possibilities that gaming offers in terms of addressing the needs of a wider variety of learning styles as well as making school and classes more fun. Students and educators also agree that the ability to use mobile technologies, and especially laptop computers, at school would be very beneficial to everyone. Moreover, teachers and administrators are becoming more willing to embrace tools such as blogging and social networking which they had previously seen as distractions rather than valuable tools for enhancing learning.

Overall, the results of this survey indicate that as technology becomes more and more pervasive students, teachers, and administrators are becoming more aware of the potential benefits of technology tools, and are more willing to educate themselves about how to utilize them in educational settings.

Question 1: What is the number 1 technology choice for teachers and administrators?

Answer: According to the survey, One to One laptop programs, programs where every student in the school has access to a laptop, are the number one technology choice for teachers and administrators.

Question 2: According to students, what are some of the benefits of using educational computer gaming?

Answer: Many high school and middle school students said that games make it easier to understand difficult concepts. They said that they would learn more about a subject if information were presented in a game format. Students also feel that the use of games in school would make it more interesting to practice problems and would help them learn how to work in teams and see the direct results of their problem solving activities.

Journal # 8

Envisioning the Future of Education: Learning While Mobile
By Mark Van’t Hooft

In this article the author, Mark Van’t Hooft discusses the increasingly mobile and connected technologies that have become embedded in almost every aspect of our lives, and their impact on education. Despite the fact that technologies such as cell phones, iPods, handheld computers, and laptops are relatively new, for many of us it is difficult to imagine life without them. Van’t Hooft explains that these technologies are extremely mobile and connected. They place a large of amount of control in the user’s hand, and they allow us to access, create, compile and share information in various formats anywhere, anytime. The implications of these technologies for education are that learning has become more personal, more collaborative, and more ubiquitous. Learning is now happening across contexts, people, and digital tools that are both mobile and static. Mobile and wireless technologies are enriching the learning experience by making it more student-centered, by connecting schools with the world, and by bridging the gap between formal and informal education. However, Van’t Hooft also mentions that, with these new tools, comes a need for new literacies. Students, he says, need to learn the skills required for dealing with increased collaboration and increased networking. They also need to learn how to navigate this new technological world in safe, ethical, and productive ways.

Question 1: This article brings up the interesting point of how increasingly connected and mobile technologies can help bridge the gap between informal and formal learning. What is an example of a digital tool that does this?

Answer: One example of a digital tool that can help bridge the gap between informal and formal learning is MyArtSpace, or any other social networking website or blog that allows students to reflect and expand on what they learn in school. With these websites students can design a space where they can express themselves creatively, share their thoughts with their peers, and reflect and comment on the thoughts of others. These websites help bridge the gap between formal and informal education by allowing students to direct their own learning according to their interests, and by extending education beyond the classroom.

Question 2: What are some concerns that parents and educators may have about these new technologies?

Answer: Educators and Parents are often concerned about the fact that they have little control over what children can do and be exposed to with these technologies. They worry that there may be negative side effects that they’re not even aware of because they are not as proficient as the kids when it comes to these new digital tools.

Journal # 7

Disabled Bodies, Able Minds: Giving Voice, Movement, and Independence to the Physically Challenged, by Diane Curtis
Published on 2/2/05 in The Journal

In this article the author, Diane Curtis, discusses the new opportunities available to students who live with disabilities as a result of the advances made in assistive technologies and alternative augmentative communication devices. The author also discusses the importance of making these new opportunities and technological resources available to the students who need them. Curtis says that “DO-IT, the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, and other widespread efforts and laws seem to have created a greater determination among students and parents to make sure disabled people are included in all activities”. Assistive technologies are a great way to allow kids who live with disabilities to participate in a wider of school activities. Moreover, in the past, students with special needs relied on aids to take notes, to take tests, to communicate, and so on. But with new assistive technologies, kids can do many of these tasks on their own. This empowers students and gives them some much needed independence.
I found this article interesting because it reminds us that assistive technologies, like other educational technologies, offer many horizons and opportunities for both teachers and students. Educators, schools, and districts need to educate themselves about what’s out there so that they can make the best out of the resources available, and provide all of their students with the best education possible.

Question 1:
Why is it that full time aids are not adequate substitutes for assistive technologies?

While classroom aids can be a very valuable resource for students who live with disabilities and their teachers, they are not a substitute for assistive technologies. If students have access to assistive technologies they can communicate on their own, they can do their own assignments both inside and outside of class, and they can participate in many activities without any need for constant adult supervision and assistance. This gives them some independence which may be important in developing their self-esteem, and their ability to socialize with their peers.

Question 2:
Assistive technologies are wonderful tools that help make education more equitable by empowering students who live with disabilities. What are some other ways that technology can be used to make education more equitable?

There are many ways that technology can be used to enrich education and make it more equitable. For instance technologies offer educators many tools for reaching children with a wide variety of learning styles and academic abilities, children with learning disabilities, and English language learners. Technology also provides many resources for teachers looking to broaden the scope of their curriculum and make their teaching more multicultural.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Journal #6: Collaborative Idea (Concept) Mapping

In collaborative Idea Mapping students and teachers use web based and often open source technologies to create computerized concept maps. Concept maps are a way of representing or organizing knowledge visually. They represent how the creator or creators thinks about a subject, topic, etc. Concept or Idea maps can be used to help kids understand how certain topics in a subject area are related to each other, or help them organize their thoughts about a certain topic. They can also help them educators communicate complex information to their students visually, which allows them to better reach English language learners and children who have trouble with reading and writing. Idea maps are also a good tool for brainstorming. Traditionally kids drew concept maps on paper and individually. But with websites such as and students can create computerized idea maps that are interactive, creative and continually evolving. Moreover because the programs are web based, free, and allow users to create buddy lists and invite collaborators, students can work together with their peers, ask for advice and feedback on their ideas and evaluate the work of others.

In the discussions about Collaborative Idea Mapping on the Classrom2.0 website, educators mentioned several advantages of using web based technologies for concept mapping. One teacher talked about how much easier it was to get his students excited about the activities when they could use interactive software that included explosions, moving pictures, funny noises, and so on. Another educator talked how nice it is to be able to use free open source software instead of expensive software such Kidspiration and Inspiration. Another teacher talked about how collaborative idea mapping facilitates distance and online learning at both the college and high school levels. She talked about she includes links to online concept maps in her online chemistry class. This same teacher mentioned how having continual access to her students’ idea maps allows her to evaluate how well they understand the material she teaches them, and if there are misunderstandings, to pinpoint where exactly they are occurring. Overall, Collaborative Idea Mapping seems like a great tool and I am eager to learn more about.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Journal # 4

Five Don'ts of Classroom Blogging
Published online by Julie Sturgeon in the February issue of T.H.E. Journal

In her article, Julie Sturgeon states that, according to research, students perform better when they know that their work is going to be reviewed by their peers. This is one of many reasons why blogging can be a very useful and empowering educational tool. However, according to the the author if blogging is going to be truly effective and not turn into a waste of the teacher's time or a forum for expressing negative, hurtful or inappropriate ideas, educators need to carefully plan their use of this tool and teach their students to be safe, respectful, and responsible bloggers.
Sturgeon educators provides with five tips on what to do or not to do when introducing blogging to a classroom:
-First, don't dive right into blogging. Set up specific guidelines for what is and isn't appropriate, inform the parents, have students sign off on a code of honor, and spend time preparing students for the activity.
-Second, don’t confuse blogging with social websites such as MySpace, face book and so on. Focus on the academic nature of the blog.
- Third, don’t jump on the freebies, choose templates that offer teachers more control, and that limit access to the website even if they cost money.
-Fourth, don’t force a sequential or chronological organization on the blog. Sometimes organizing posts by topic or importance to the students is more useful. In general think about the goals you want to achieve with this blog and map out an effective strategy for doing this.
-Fifth, don’t limit the blogging to students. Be a part of the community and give your students the opportunity to comment on your thoughts; this will help you get to know them better

Like many other online resources, if it used thoughtfully and responsibly, blogging can offer many unique and positive learning opportunities.

Question 1:
What are some of the ways that educators can teach their students how to be safe and respectful when communicating online?
One thing that teachers can do, is have their students read The Core Rules of Netiquette ( and have them take the netiquette quiz. Students could also be asked to complete an assignment in which they would give a few examples of what they think would be unacceptable blogger behavior and explain why. The students could then share their ideas, and the class as whole could come up with its own class bloggetiquette.

Question 2:
How could I used blogging to enhance learning and foster collaboration in my classroom?
Students who are working on science fair projects, or other group projects, could collaborate with their peers to create a blog where they would post questions about their projects and ask for advice, as well as make suggestions and comments about the projects of others. Students could also post resources or other helpful hints for their peers.

Journal # 3

Making Field Trips Podtastic !
Published by Alice M.Weller, John C. Bickar, and Paul McGuiness in the February 2008 issue of Learning and Leading with Technology

This article describes a wireless hand held museum field trip module that was designed by some researchers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. This interactive field trip was designed to enhance the educational value of the trip by increasing the amount of time that students spend on each exhibit and increasing the depth of their engagement with it. By using a variety of tools such as podcasts, cameras, web searches, quizzes and recording devices, which can all be found on a hand-held computer, the researchers transformed the museum field trip into an interactive, learning experience which is guided and customized by the educator, but which still allows the student to explore areas of interest and be creative. As they tour around the museum students’ understanding of what they see is enhanced by the information they get from the podcasts prepared by their teachers. As they are examining the exhibits, students can take digital pictures of things that interest them, they can record their observations in audio or text formats, they can interview museum staff members, they can search the web for additional information on topics that interest them, they can even take quizzes on each exhibit and assess their understanding of what they see right away. The technology required to implement this hand-held module is not very complicated, and yet by integrating this technology into the traditional field trip, teachers provide students with an activity which develops their digital literacy and at the same time enhances their ability to learn, to be independent, and to be creative.

Question 1:
The authors initially designed this technique to be used during museum field trips. What are some other useful applications of this hand-held model?
This hand held model would be a very useful tool in any kind of field trip such as a visit to a historical place, a forest, a garden and any other setting which provides students with primary learning materials. It could also be used in settings such as art classes, shop classes, and science fairs where students are working on different projects and need customized instruction and guidance.

Question 2:
What are some advantages of this tool beyond enhancing learning and creativity?
This model is a great way to integrate activities which support National Educational Technology Standards into field trips and other interactive or hands on educational settings. By making students take charge of their learning this model also gives educators more time and more freedom to focus on students who need more individual attention than their peers.

Journal #2

Mind the Gap; It's a high-speed, high-def, Wi-Fi world. But not for everybody.
Published by Cindy Long in the March 2008 issue of NEA Today

In this article Cindy Long discusses the effect that Technology has on education and student achievement in our increasingly technical world. According to the author, as technology becomes more and more embedded in every aspect of life in the modern world, students who have limited access to computers and the internet are falling off the digital divide. The author claims that students who have few opportunities to develop digital literacy are not acquiring the skills they need to be successful and to fully participate in the 21st century. Paradoxically, while evolving technology has in many ways widened the achievement gap between poorer and wealthier students, the solution to the problem is technology. According to Long, universal access to technology can help overcome social and economic inequity. Long cites 5 examples from communities across the country where community centers, after school programs, or dedicated teachers have made technology accessible to low income students and have integrated it into their every days live. In all of these examples, regular access to internet and computers had a profound impact on the students’ lives: achievement gaps were narrowed, college attendance rates doubled or tripled, and a whole new world of information and opportunities, for learning, creativity and self-expression was opened up to the students.

How can increased access to the internet narrow the achievement gap of low-income students and help overcome inequity in education?
Regular access to computers and the internet gives students the opportunity to be consumers and creators of information on a global scale. Internet tools like blogger, wikis, my space, and YouTube encourage students to express themselves and be creative, and give them the opportunity to connect and share ideas with peers from all over the world. The incredible amount of resources and information available online, allows kids to take of control of their education and direct their own learning, and this empowers them to look beyond the limitations of the school curriculum and become pro-active learners.

Question 2:
What are some technology related activities that I can assign to my students that would encourage them to be creative and become active learners?
It would be cool to have students pick 4 or 5 topics that interest them at the beginning of the year and create a class wiki for each one of these topics. While all students would be required to contribute resources and comments to all of the wikis, each wiki would be assigned to a small group of students would be responsible for making sure that the information posted is accurate and appropriate, and that there is a wide range of resources available.