Reflections of – the way life used to be….

December 5, 2009
Neurons in the brain

… much simpler!  

     In many ways, this class seems to have flown by so quickly. The weekly scramble to write something meaningful (at least to me) in my blog, reading everyone else’s blog entries and commenting on the one’s where I felt I had something to contribute, commiserate with,  or could encourage a fellow classmate.  I hope my fellow classmates realize that if I didn’t comment on your blog, it wasn’t because I didn’t enjoy it – there were many blogs I learned a lot from – but because I didn’t feel I could add anything of substance to the discussion that wasn’t already there. However, in looking back over the material we have covered and my weekly responses to it, I can see I have gained a lot of new knowledge and skills which will benefit my teaching practice as well as my day-to-day life.  The learning curve seemed more like a vertical line at times, but somehow we all persevered and made it – and I credit the help from Alec, Bettina and my fellow classmates for that!
 
As I mentioned in my first blog, I really knew nothing about social media when we started this class. I am a private person and was also concerned about privacy issues.  This class was going to be a challenge. However, I soon realized (blogs 2, 4, 5) that I needed to learn how to stay current with what my students were doing to reach them effectively, develop a community of learning and teach them how to use properly use the tools – I had no idea how many different tools were available for social networking or why people were involved.
 
Using the Tools  
I agree with Amy that Google Reader was a lifesaver! I am very grateful for this application as it really helped keep track of everyone’s blogs and other feeds I liked to follow and see when they were updated so I didn’t have to keep checking each one individually. It’s a keeper! I haven’t been making very much use of delicious, but I am monitoring the ECI831 feed from it in Google Reader🙂.  I’ll need more time to explore it before I can decide how useful it will be for me – I have 100’s of bookmarks for places I want to explore, but haven’t had the time. I’m enjoying my blogging – it is a great way to reflect and discuss issues from class and share about other issues of importance.  Thanks for all the helpful advice Sue, especially about linking and pingbacks! I have also discovered that YouTube has actual educational videos and lectures  and not just thousand’s of videos of people finding ways to injure their groins or show off stupid pet tricks…  I loved our session on digital storytelling (blog 8) and being exposed to many of the ways people are sharing their stories. I will definitely be exploring these tools farther to see which of them will benefit my learners the most and I will be using the ShiningScary Mary and Story of a Sign as examples of how the mood or the message of a story can be shaped. A tool I am just beginning to find useful is Twitter.  At first, I just didn’t understand how it could be useful – a constant stream of possibly interesting data or comments from others whom I could choose to follow. OK – I didn’t know who to follow, had no idea how to find someone interesting to follow, and I didn’t want to have a constant stream of distracting information which would cause me the same problems as I had with the class backchannel. However, I recently made use of it to try connect with other math teachers who may have a use for my final project (blog 18), and I think I need to consider using Twitter and Twibes to expand (or begin to create)  my personal learning network.  I haven’t had the time to explore customized search engines, but when I do, I will.

 Intriguing Ideas 

As much as I struggled with some of the ideas presented in this course, there were many ideas that I wouldn’t have thought of on my own and I’m glad they came up. The importance of social media (blog 4); the role of the teacher of the future in teaching of, the tools for, and responsible use,  promotion and filtering of online learning (blogs 5, 6, 10, 12, 17)  all have had an impact on the way I view learning online.  The discussion on filtering in this class has really opened my eyes to some of the issues and implicit messages we send in our schools by filtering what our learners view. 

I really appreciated the open education lecture and the exposure to the Creative Commons. Now I can find media to use in my presentations without violating copyright laws. By choosing the appropriate filter in Flickr of Google Images, it is very simple to find a wealth of images.  

Professional Practice 

Now for the big question, how will all of this effect my professional practice? Well, to answer bluntly, as much as I’m allowed to under the conditions I work under and my classroom setting. I became more aware of my “old school” teaching habits after last weeks class on the power of sharing given by Dean Shareski (Blog 17). I know I will be implementing many more activities in which my learners will be working together or at least sharing their work, thoughts and opinions – whether we are online, or just in the classroom setting. After our session on LOLcats by Stephen Downes, I will also monitor how much I am focusing my instruction on tools and content and make sure to include to importance and/or the context of the material we are exploring (Blog 16). I will become an advocate for less filtering and guide my learners in discovering appropriate use of social media and the net, how this may change depending on the situational context and what personal responsibility they have (blog 12).  I have a small advantage over some here – I teach in an adult educational setting so our access to the net is not filtered quite as heavily as a regular school system’s would be. However, this can cause additional problems because adults are used to doing, and viewing, whatever they want when they want. It does make for interesting discoveries (and discussions) on occasion… J. I have become more tolerant of facebook – but not during class time (unless we do a class project). I think the biggest change for me is the new awareness of the tools available on the net, the opportunities for learning provided by social media and the value of open education. I must admit I was sceptical when I started this course, but I seem to have been able to overcome many of my concerns. I feel I have participated in this class more fully than I have with any other class I have taken as part of my post-graduate work. As I mentioned above, the learning curve was steep, but as the class moved (raced) along, I became more and more comfortable with the tools, concepts, and that pesky idea of sharing… Not bad for an old introvert if I do say so myself. 

 So long and thanks for all the fish….  

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Chinese proverb.  – The International Thesaurus of Quotations, ed. Rhoda Thomas Tripp, p. 76, no. 3 (1970).  

 To Alec, Bettina, and all my classmates – thanks for a great learning experience and all you have taught me! This class will have a lasting and continuing effect on both my personal and professional lives. I’m sure I’ll run into you online on occasion, and hope we can all collaborate to improve the use of social media and open education within our schools.  

 Take care!  

 Greg  

 Note: I tried to create clip marks for the reference links to my blog entries in my post, but I experienced MUCH technical difficulty. So, instead of launching my system onto the lawn, I thought it more productive to link to the entire post instead of cutting and pasting all of the relevant material (and you though this post was long…J). My apologies. 

Fractional Reflections…

December 2, 2009

reflection by rudecactus

 

A reflection on my fraction help final project.  

Now that I look back on my idea I have one simple thought – “What was I thinking!”🙂 Somehow my fairly straight forward project has taken on a life of its own…  

I started with the idea of a digital lesson page for adding fractions – an area in which I know my adult students have a lot of trouble and would benefit from having access to extra help either in the classroom or at home.  I thought about the different tools we had explored in this class. Slideshare would provide an easy link to a slide show I could narrate, but I couldn’t animate the examples they way I wanted. A video could work, but I would need a properly lit area to film, and it would be difficult to properly show the examples I wanted to use.  I decided to create my lessons in MS PowerPoint even though I had been having difficulties posting these files (hence the video of my introductory PowerPoint on YouTube…). I went with PowerPoint because it allowed me the flexibility to animate my lessons in time with my narration in a way I thought would be most beneficial to the learners viewing them. I think I managed to do this, but I had to provide a link for people to download a free viewer because for some unknown reason, these files wouldn’t automatically play, even though that it what they were supposed to do… However, they would play in PowerPoint so the idea, even if awkwardly executed, still worked.  

As I fleshed out the idea, I realized I needed to expand my idea to include other lessons. An introduction to fractions was needed for those who didn’t have the basic knowledge of what fractions were, and since I was expanding the idea anyway, I planned for sections on subtracting, multiplying and dividing fractions as well. After reflecting on my methodology, I though that digital lessons were not enough, and expanded each section again to include links to online lessons to back up my lessons, links to printable practice sheets and online practice and links to online games to have fun and reinforce the concepts being taught. My straight forward idea had grown more complex and I was now making plans for 5 different sections involving 13 digital PowerPoint lessons with links for each lesson. I’m afraid I overreached a bit… each digital lesson took me from 5 – 7 hours to make. I finished 11 of the 13, but I have run out of time to finish the last 2 as I have probably put in close to 100 hours working on my page (and boy, do I hope people find the site useful or my time would have been better spent elsewhere…). I do plan to finish them, but it will be sometime after Christmas. Another feature I intended to implement was a blog page to answer fraction questions or to ask for help with something not covered on the site. Again, this will have to wait, but in the mean time, I have included the Wolframalpha search engine. Students can type in their equation, and a step by step solution can be found. It works for all kinds of questions (and even will graph parabolas), so I think this provides a speedier short-term solution.   I intend to expand the site over the coming years, and I hope to cover a lot of the Level 1, 2 and 3 Adult Basic Education Math Curriculum and integrate the links provided in these documents as well as create more lessons. Maybe someone will toss some funding my way and I can purchase a program to convert the PowerPoints into videos, I mean a guy can dream can’t he?  

I did encounter some difficulties in setting up my site. Game selection was a challenge. I tried to select games that would be fun and not just provide repetitive drill as discussed in our Gaming in Education class lecture given by Sylvia Martinez, but fun fraction games are tough to find… I really like the concentration (matching) game for equivalent fractions.  I found it fun and my students found it helped them to become more adept at recognizing fractions with the same value. Fishy Fractions is good for a variety of fraction skills practice, but is very repetitive after a while. I am hoping that others will submit links to great games so I can improve on the ones that I have found (calling Sylvia…🙂 ).  

Another area that has caused some difficulty is editing the wiki page. I realize that I am getting the site for free, but it could definitely benefit from a greater range editing tools and it would be nice if the site left spaces I put in, or actually formatted the font the way I selected, rather than taking out the spaces or randomly changing font formats… It has been a little frustrating. If only Wikispaces would give free upgrades to all educators, not just those in the K-12 system…  

Feedback is an additional area of concern. I created a survey in Google Docs (love it by the way) and linked it to the site, but as of today, I have only 3 submissions and all of them were from my students (and strangely enough, I got good ratings)… I also have a few verbal comments from others who have checked out the site and they have been positive, including a “fun” comment from a co=workers 9 year old, but nothing much in writing. I checked the statistics on the wiki and there have been over 100 unique visitors to the site in November, but people don’t take the time to give feedback. I am beginning to understand why there are all those offers of a chance to win a prize for filling out a survey… I know we are all busy, and I myself am guilty of not checking out many of our projects, so I tried to think of other ways to solicit feedback. I emailed the link to all the Basic Ed teachers at SIIT, I sent out a Tweet with a fraction help tag, I bookmarked the site on Delicious, tagged the site with many fraction related terms. However, after last nights class on sharing with Dean Shareski, I finally had a revelation on the proper use of Twitter – I went to the Twibes site, and tweeted applicable math related Twibes and asked them to check out the site and give feedback. Hopefully this will provide some results to improve the site.  

Overall, as much work as this project has been, I am glad I did it. I have had a chance to put into practice some of the concepts we have been learning about, I have become a little more tech savvy about available tools, I have created a resource for my students, school and anyone else who wants to use it – my own little piece of open education and information sharing. I fully intend to maintain this site and add to it in the future. Hopefully others will like it and use it as a resource as well.  

Take care!  

Greg

Mind your own business… old school learning

December 2, 2009

Knowledge Sharing and Dissemination by Choconancy1

Last nights EC&I 831 class topic was “The Power of Sharing” with guest lecturer Dean Shareski. There were many excellent points of discussion on the importance and power of sharing resources and information that reinforced my beliefs on this topic.  Yet the idea that captured my attention, and perhaps convicted me, was that of  “Mind your own business learning”.  It was using this method that  I was educated. It involves very little group work, a “keep your eyes on your own paper” because what others are doing is none of your business and education became a competition to see who could get the highest marks. Hmmmm, I wonder where the “doesn’t work well with others” remarks come from? My education training came about around the introduction of CELs (Common Essential Learnings – CCPINT) and I was trained to foster group work and collaborative learning, yet somehow, unconsciously, I wound up mostly teaching how I was taught. Isn’t this the bane of education? Even now, I have individualized programs and I tell students not to worry about where everyone else is, just to concentrate on their own work. I realize that this is because my students are all over the map in their levels, but it does remind me that I need to find a way incorporate more cooperative learning and sharing opportunities than currently exist – both in class and online. It seems an old(er) introvert can learn new tricks; learning communities are important.

I will be more aware of the power of sharing in planning future lessons,  and I believe that my learners will benefit from it. I know that I have sure benefitted from the knowledge shared by all of you in our classes,  discussions, blogs and comments, and I thank you all for that!

Good luck to everyone as we finish up our projects as this class winds down – I will miss it – and all of you!  However, I don’t intend to just fade away. I’m sure we’ll run into each online in the future! Take care.

Greg

A nation in mourning…

December 1, 2009

Photograph by: Mathieu Belanger, Reuters

The Rider nation that is….  One minute elation, the next despair… It’s funny how a simple game can transfix and depress so many people around the country. I still haven’t fully comprehended how affected I have been by the emotional switcharoo at the end of the game. I’ve also noticed it at my office and others here have mentioned that it was very quiet in their spouses offices as well. I guess this just reinforces how powerful media can be.

Good thing this is “next year” country. Riders – we share your loss, but you played far above and beyond what all the analysts predicted at the beginning of the season. You surpassed most expectations in how well you played the game. You impressed many with your effort and determination and made it to the Grey Cup with a Rookie quarterback. It truly was an amazing season and I can only wait with great anticipation for next season. Go Riders!

Now for something completely different… LOLcats

Last weeks session Speaking in LOLcats by Stephen Downes continued my learning spiral for this class. It’s amazing how one little class can cause so much havoc in one little brain. I liked the presentation, and am intrigued by the notion that skills needed for 21st century learning are languages in which we need to become fluent. This is an idea I will have to explore later when time permits… However, two other ideas in the presentation really captured my attention. The first of these was:

“Focusing on tools is like focusing on pens, pencils, and the printing press, instead of the Magna Carta, or the Gutenberg Bible”

This brought into focus a struggle I have had to deal with. I have been trying to learn these tools we have been exposed to and getting frustrated when I haven’t been able to get a handle on them all. It takes a little pressure off to realize that simply knowing the tools are out there and what they can do is more important. That way I can find the appropriate tool for what I want to accomplish and learn to use it as needed. No one can possibly (with the exception of our esteemed professor of course) be an expert on all existing and new tools available for digital learning and still have time to have a life off the computer. I’m ok with that, or at least I’m on my way to being ok with that. The important idea is that what we create is more important that what we created it with.

The second idea that captured my attention was that:

“Focusing on content is like focusing on what the Magna Carta or the Gutenberg Bible said, instead of what they did or what people did with them”

This reinforced the idea that the context of the material being studied is just as important as the material’s content. I think one of the hardest things to learn is not be able explain what something says, but to be able to be able to explain what it means and why it is important. This is a critical thinking skill we must continue to reinforce with our students.

Take care!

G

Clip clopping along….

November 24, 2009

Wow. I’m still reeling from last week’s class  Remixing Education information overload, trying to finish up the final project  (please try it out and complete the survey!), and find time to try out one of the new tools… I’m afraid to clean out my ears because I can’t afford to lose any more grey matter…

I did find some time to visit the Clipmarks site and I tried out the Amplify bookmarklet for Internet Explorer. I found an article online about how germs on our skin can actually help prevent infections (take THAT Howard Hughes – pardon the obscure reference) and thought it would be an interesting test. I made this bookmarklet to show you can include a picture, and separate groups of text in a clip, which is then saved online and tweeted thought your account to your followers. I also choose to link the bookmarklet to delicious to send it to a wider audience than my Twitter following…  A very quick way to point out items of interest without sending a link to an entire article – and the receiver actually may understand why you sent them this info in the first place…🙂.

“Self” I said, “why not try to get people to check out your fractions site with this?” So I made this bookmarklet  from my wiki page. It was not as easy as creating a bookmarklet from a web page and I had trouble selecting some items from the wiki page, but at least the main idea is out there to a wide audience who receive posts tagged with eci831 or fractions.

I think this could be a very valuable way of collecting and distributing information – especially since the clipmarks or bookmarklets made with these applications are searchable.  This allows you search what others have found and thought was interesting within a particular topic.

I wish I had more time to explore this more in-depth right now, but I’m afraid it will have to wait until after Christmas. I do know that this is one tool I will continue to use long after this course is done. (although I just tried the Amplify links on the school computers and get blank screens… is this a problem for anyone else?  Oh my aching head….)

See you tonight!

G

Go Riders!

November 22, 2009

I just had to stop working on my project to write – Wow – what a game!  I was glad to be in the stands for that one – I think my hearing will stop ringing sometime tomorrow!

Next stop Calgary – sorry Henry, maybe next year….

Hmmmm – I tried to upload a nice Rider song, but apparently I require a space upgrade for mp3 files that will set me back $20.00 US. Not before Christmas I think! (Everybody sing – “Green is the color, Football is the game…”)

See you Tuesday!

 

G

 

Bringing personal responsibility back into the equation… How dare we!

November 15, 2009
Horse Sense

by kkimpel

One of the suggested readings for this week’s class was  Bud Hunt’s Blog “Would you please block?”. It it Bud responds to requests by teachers to block internet sites that are distracting students from classwork. He responds to these requests will a well written stock response outlining that all sites required to be blocked by law are, but that they would not be blocking sites as a classroom management tool – “Students off task is not a technology problem – it’s a behavior problem”. I love this response because it reminds us that as much as we try to protect our students and children from EVERYTHING that may harm them, the real world exists they need to be prepared to deal with it. If our children and students do not learn how to take personal responsibility for their actions, how to separate accurate information from fiction, and how to think for themselves, we may be raising a generation of whining babies who expect all the difficult thinking and choices to be done for them and create followers, not the leaders we need.

P J Giles responded to this post and wrote that filtering “.. is a life skill teachers and students need to learn, evaluate, and reflect on as choices are made about what is considered “good” information” . I agree with this. If we block all content that might contain some information that might be objectionable, how do students and teachers learn how to filter the information on the web, published in books or broadcast on TV? How do students learn what is appropriate behaviour and what isn’t? Maybe we need to reconsider our criteria in blocking websites, especially if they are being blocked for classroom management issues…

In a response to a previous blog, tchcruiser wrote “…we are doing our students a huge diservice if we don’t take the time to show them, model and give opportunity for correction in how to proerly use tools to make and grow relationships, both professional and personal, and how to learn using tools and materials found in places other than the protected walls of the school. By doing so, we are inheritanly teaching them to be critical, to be selective and to be cautious in their research, application and response to what they are finding out there. There is simply no way to dam the flow, or at least not for long… and it is not teaching them the right message anyway. What is most important is not only to find the information, but to assess it for validity, find more to back it up or refute it, and then make an informed judgement and respond to what they find and act upon it in a moral and reponsible way.”  A great argument!

If we want students to be able sift accurate information out the sea of inaccuracies out there,  how can we not dare to bring personal responsibility back into our classrooms?

 The other question raised for class was “What are the new media literacies and how should teachers / schools address them?”. I watched the video The New Media Literacies, was hard pressed to write down all of the suggested literacies they gave that they consider skills needed for the classroom, work, creative expression, and citizenship. The first skill – judgement – fits well with the concept of appropriate filtering on Bud Hunt’s blog. The others include:

  • negotiation (to enter different online communities)
  • appropriation (for legal mix and remixing)
  • play (as a form of problem solving)
  • transmedia navigation
  • simulation
  • collective intelligence
  • performing
  • distributed cognition
  • visualization
  • multitasking

Most of these are supposedly covered under critical and creative thinking that is a large part of the Saskatchewan curriculum, but are we practicing these skills in a way that applies to the way the information world is being reshaped by the web? Maybe, just maybe, one way to address this issue is to make courses like this one mandatory (instead of being an elective) for all students in education degree programs so that those entering the profession  have some of the necessary skills. As well, current teachers in the system already need to have access to inservices to open their eyes to what is going on outside of the classroom (if they don’t know already) and what they could bring into classroom to enrich students experiences. Finally, the Provincial government and school divisions have to get on board and provide the funding to get all schools up to date with appropriate technologies and policies so that no students are left behind. I know, a lot to ask, wouldn’t it be nice…?

 Take care!

G

Calling all math teachers…

November 8, 2009

City by fdecomite.

City by fdecomite

Hi everyone,

Construction on my final project – a fraction help page – is underway and I need your help. Since I know that everyone has sooo much time on their hands right now, I would greatly appreciate it you could try out a lesson or two and give me some feedback on the discussion page. Please let me know if you like the layout or content of the lesson, or any difficulties you encounter. As well, is there anything that you feel really needs to be improved? I would also appreciate it if you passed the link to the page (http://fraction-help.wikispaces.com/) to any math teachers you know for their or their students feedback.

I can’t do much about the ads, because I don’t teach in the K-12 system and can’t guarantee it won’t only be used by those in the K-12 system, Wikispaces won’t give me the free educational package. Frankly, I don’t agree with their reasoning since this is intended to be a free open source for any student having trouble, but I don’t write the rules…

I will be updating the site on an ongoing basis for the next month or so, and if people find it useful, I intend to keep it up and expand the content to include other areas I have noticed students having difficulty with.

Thanks in advance!

Greg

 

(Almost forgot… GO RIDERS! I have to type this as my voice is a little hoarse from cheering at the game last night…🙂 )

 

Book-i-facation Danno!

November 2, 2009

books

Once again, sorry for the late post. I missed work all of last week because of the flu and now am trying to dig my out from under all the things left to do…

Our last class on open education with our guest Jon Mott was very interesting. Quite a few terms caught my attention but I loved the idea of the book-i-fication of  TV (and sorry for the obscure tv reference in the title – for bonus points, does anyone know where it comes from? For more bonus points, can anyone tell how to get the theme song out of my head?). I can identify with the concept that people want what they want, when they want it. Just like anytime we want to read, we pick up a book, people want to watch their favorite tv shows whenever they want  – and with todays tech, it’s quite do-able! Not really a problem for people (except advertisers who get cut out of the pirate downloadable versions on tv), but isn’t this trend also expanding rapidly into other areas of life? Can’t wait to see a movie at the theater – download it,  too impatient to research an essay – download it, want information – google it. Check sources? Who has time for that?  I still laugh at the student who could not understand why he got a failing grade on an essay he handed in, but I found written word for word online in an article. “I didn’t plagiarise it, I got it from my friend at another school!” Guess they both should have failed…

I guess I’m just wondering if with all this instant access to whatever we want, are we losing our ability to do the required work, do we just look for a quick solution, or is the problem that the skills and values we teach todays students haven’t caught up to todays technology? Don’t get me wrong, I love the open access to information we have, but I agree with the statement in the class that we need to teach students to be “knowledge able, not just knowledgable”.

OK short rant this week to make up for the epic posting last week…

“See” you tomorrow… (cue the tympani – da da da daaa daaaaa daaaaa da da da daaaa daaaaaaaa)

G

Comment for Jesse Bradley

November 2, 2009

My reply to your blog didn’t seem to be processed Jesse so I’m replying here… 

Comment for Jesse Bradley in response to:

A question that I pose to readers is…

If you agree that finding a balance (whether it’s equity or not) between these two complimentary skill sets is important… Where would they fit in a scale of importance with communication skills?”

Hi Jesse,  Good question… I’m just having a hard time separating them from communication skills. I think they both important to be able to communicate in a well-informed and thoughtful way and would include them as part of communication skills. Or, maybe that’s just my cold medication talking… “See” you tomorrow!

G