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.