Friday, July 6, 2012

Voila! A New Past-time! Plus some...

I believe the most exciting technological thing I learned about this semester was definitely how to podcast. It's something I've been interested in for a while but just could never really figure out how to do it and never spent very much time trying to figure it out on my own. I know podcasting will become a new past-time in no time for me in my professional and personal endeavors. I hope to include things like that in my classroom blog too. Actually, the brainstorming that took place during the tech projects in this class led me to come up with some really exciting ideas for my new classroom starting in the fall. 

I tried really hard all semester to utilize the tech project to create real life classroom projects. In this way, the entire class got me thinking on how to improve my room and my class environment before I have even gotten there! What a wonderful thing! The need to complete some of the projects led me to research what the TEKS were, how to use them to make a real lesson plan for my classroom, where to go to find new ways of introducing new concepts...the list goes on and on. 

I also learned how to create an e-portfolio, which is something that at least my family has been wanting me to do for a very long time. In high school, I was really into web design but since then, I have basically forgotten everything having to do with it. It was really neat to get to try my hand at it one more time and reconnect those neurons in my brain. I basically completed my working e-portfolio too...which can be found here:

My Official E-Portfolio!

Anyway, it has been a very enlightening class. I've even learned some about what my philosophy on education is, which has been helpful so far even just in knowing what my goals really are for a lesson plan. I can't wait to engage my classes in higher thinking using the tools I've gained for my educational toolbox from this course. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Am I a Net Gen Kid?

This week in EDUC 597, we read this chapter from a book called Educating the Net Generation. It was the first chapter and it's basically explaining what that "Net Generation" looks like. I believe we were asked to read this because, in reality, what good is an 'education through technology' course going to do me if I don't understand the importance of technology in the average child's life today? I'll tell's a big deal. Kids these days, the chapter says, spend about 2 hours every day in front of some kind of screen and that's just about the same amount of time the average kid spends playing outside every day too. No wonder we have bigger kids...they don't play enough...that's a different subject though. But that's just one way you can see the average childhood experience changing in drastic ways thanks to, or at least due to, technology. Of course, I must take into consideration that this article places me at the edge of this "Net Generation" and "Generation X".

The cool part about this tech-savvy generation, though, is that it is changing the way kids think about stuff. Now, my first thought is usually "of course...the kids just want to have everything done for them...they can't focus because all they want to do is play video games..." etc. but this chapter actually put some things into focus for me that I recognized but could never really explain on my own. The Net Generation is a group of people who apparently have a much better understanding of the balance between real life and the virtual world. Not to mention that their way of learning has become much more discovery-based. They'd rather figure problems out on their own. It's like that emphasis on problem solving I've always professed as being the golden standard is actually sort of a reality. The chapter talks about the Net Generation being active in community, being very structured, they often like working in groups or teams, are fast-paced, and can multi-task pretty well as a general rule. All of a sudden, this seems to be describing me in a much more accurate light than I'd first realized. 

So the chapter gives criteria for the reader to kind of gauge where he or she is on the tech generation scale. This is largely based on age, but there are exceptions to every rule. For this reason, they do have a chart that marks you by your age, but there is also a set of questions to be answered that place you too. Here they are:
  • Are you more comfortable composing documents online than longhand?             
  • Have you turned your "remembering" (phone numbers, meetings, and so on) over to a technology device?
  • Do you go to meetings with your laptop or PDA?
  • Are you constantly connected? Is the Internet always on whether you are at home or work? Is your cell phone always with you?
How many different activities can you effectively engage in at one time?
Do you play video or computer games?       
So where do I fall? Well, I'll just answer the questions and see where I am. 

1) Yes. I will say that I do have quite an affinity for writing longhand and keep a journal regularly but when it comes to composing a document, I do feel much more comfortable on a computer. It's easy to change something and I definitely type much faster than I write with a pen. So that one is a yes.

2) Yes. Again, I must admit that I used to remember things much more often than I do now. At least with phone numbers, it's a definite yes. I honestly think that if I could afford some kind of smart phone or something like that, I would be a full yes on that question too.

3) Not really. I do not go to meetings with my laptop, though I do converse with people over programs like maybe that counts as a half and half?

4) No. My cell phone is always with me but, just as I said before, my lack of a smart phone is most likely the only reason why I am not always connected in some way.

5) Yes. I will say I am a fantastic multi-tasker.

6) Not really. I don't really play video or computer games, though I have tried my hand at them socially. (Sounds kind of like its a drug when I say it like if I'd tried cigarettes..."I don't smoke but I have tried doing it." haha.

So there it is...I am about half and half. And I think once I do end up with an iPhone or iPad, it'll be all over. I'll be totally connected. 

And so, if I am here as a borderline Net Gen kid, maybe it's more personal than I'd previously thought. Perhaps this is even more of a big deal than I thought. And so it does make sense to incorporate technology...and that theory I always had about invention and discovery and exploration in learning makes even more sense now! Any qualms I had about it I think are gone now. 

As far as changes, I think keeping kids engaged through the whole process of learning is a bigger challenge than it used to be. Keeping students focused is key and I think part of that is the teacher being focused and excited about what's going on. I think another part is just keeping them busy. Engage their minds as they enter the classroom and then move on from there. No down distractions. If there's no time for distraction, there's no time for poor behavior choices. 

However, that leaves me with one question. Have the people in this Net Generation become so discovery oriented and so fast-paced that the way they should be taught needs to become more of a show? Do they need more color, more spice, more cryptic but fun looking? Maybe so...that's my new quandary.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Assessment FOR Learning

This week, we read an article called "Electronic Portfolios as Digital Stories of Deep Learning." Obviously, we have begun studying what an e-portfolio looks like, why they are used, and their potential in the classroom. In the article, there were several points made about the idea of Assessment FOR Learning which is where you utilize assessment to promote learning rather than just assessing things that have been learned, Assessment OF Learning. Here are the points they made:

  • AFL should be part of effective planning of teaching and learning
  • AFL should focus on how students learn
  • AFL should be recognized as central to classroom practice
  • AFL should be regarded as a key professional skill for teachers
  • AFL should be sensitive and constructive because any assessment has an emotional impact
  • AFL should take account of the importance of (and foster) learner motivation
  • AFL should promote commitment to learning goals and a shared understanding of the criteria by which they are assessed
  • AFL develops learners’ capacity for self-assessment so that they can become reflective and self-managing
  • AFL should recognize the full range of achievements of all learners
  • Learners should receive constructive guidance about how to improve
The one I most relate to as far as my situation is "AFL should be recognized as central to classroom practice." Now this, I believe, is mostly due to the subject that I will be teaching: ART. Art, inherently, requires that students be assessed for learning through a portfolio. In order to know how to teach students and show them how to grow as artists, it is imperative that you take the work they've done and assess what the students need more of to gain knowledge and finesse in the medium. 

As far as portfolios go, I believe that having student porfolios is incredibly important in an art classroom, however I feel like e-portfolios would not make very much sense. Considering students are only in my classroom once a week, it would be far too time consuming. I believe having them keep a portfolio in folder or paper form would make much more sense. And as far as a portfolio for me, I think creating an e-portfolio will help me to understand how to make my physical portfolio stronger. An art portfolio is most often just a collection of pieces of art made and stored in the same place for easy access. An e-portfolio, however, can have so much more involved. Philosophies, artist statements, photographs, resumes, and growth reflections would round a professional portfolio out in a way that I have never really thought about before now. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

MAPping, Bookmarks, & Wiki's, Oh My!

After reading the articles and watching the videos on how to ensure that sites are credible for my technology class this week, I am mostly left with the feeling that I was taught well.

Coming from a family of conspiracy theorists, I learned at a young age to use the internet with caution. This became a permanent ideology in high school when several of my teachers made sure to go over exactly what was a scholarly website and what was not. We were taught not to use pages that were written by just anybody and were taught some of the same steps my technology class proposed. I did however find that the site listed, [see article here] did not work as often as one would think. I believe this is probably because, like many search engines, this site may find its information on the go. What I mean is that I think perhaps the site which advertises its ability to smell a phony might be smelling them one at a time which means it likely still has a relatively small cache of site information. 

Anyway, I believe that I was taught well and am now confident that I am prepared to search for information more safely and in a more informed fashion! I believe it is of the utmost importance that students learn these skills. If they aren't taught, I fear that students of the future may end up believing stuff like this. Alan November talks about this some in his article, "Creating a New Culture of Teaching and Learning". Teaching kids how to safely and smartly search the web should most certainly be taught in should also be taught at home. 

This week, we also learned about social bookmarking. I have used Google Reader for some time now since I am sort of a craft-addict. It is a wonderful tool to bookmark blogs and follow favorite sites. I was introduced to something new, though! 

It is like Google Reader but it is public! How cool! I have wondered for a while now what that site was that always seemed to be in a cluster of similar sites' logos on certain pages. It seems like a really cool idea and I am definitely looking into using it. 

This brings me to the last thing we learned about this week: Wiki's. I always thought these were pages put up on Wikipedia! I thought that was what you called a Wikipedia article...a wiki. I was wrong. It definitely hasn't been the first time. Anyway, the way I understood it, Wiki's are kind of like social forums. You choose people to share information with, and then everyone has a chance to put their two cents in. I opened up a Wiki for implementing an integrated lesson plan for my new art class. The school where I got a position is really science oriented so I thought, what better way to integrate science into art than to integrate the same things the children are learning in their science classes! It seemed like a neat idea to me and to my principal so I thought...maybe this could be a good tool to do just that. We have a program that seeks to bring teachers from all grade levels together into brainstorming type conversation and I figured maybe this could be a good medium to help keep that going as well. Since it seems pretty easy to use, I think everyone could grasp it pretty quickly.

I love learning new things about the internet! I'm even looking into all of the extra fun stuff that can be done with a can make money doing it and they have so many options. Hopefully, I can use what I am learning to make my classroom a more exciting and inviting place to grow!

Friday, June 8, 2012

An Educational Philosophy

 Education is necessary for every human being to function correctly in the modern world. In order to function at all in society, one must know how to read, solve problems, and know how to utilize as many resources available as possible in order to accomplish tasks. For this reason, it is of utmost importance that one should know what one believes about how that education is obtained, especially when going into a teaching field.
The whole purpose of an education is for a person to be able to interact in society in a real and meaningful way through communication, the exchange of ideas, invention, language, and culture. Without education, one might find themselves mute, unable to take care of themselves, unable to interact with others, and perhaps, for all intents and purposes, be a vegetable. Because humans are constantly learning new things and experimenting and forming new ideas throughout all cultures, in order to interact in any sort of meaningful way, one must have someone teach you the things that you might not be able to find out alone. So, the purpose of education is to inform students about all basic subjects (math, language, history, social studies, science, etc.) along with teaching social norms, moral behavior, and character building as well.

I believe students should be well-rounded with a holistic education. With the proper motivation, every student will be excited about learning and actively interested in learning more, even past the classroom. Students should be given the opportunity to discover new ideas on their own through well facilitated activities and be able to apply what they learn to real life situations. Students should be able to think abstractly, or at least begin to, and use that kind of higher thinking to develop problem solving abilities. In teaching students history, they should be able to look at how things were done in the past and try and develop opinions concerning improvements for the future. They should be able to work independently as well as cooperatively with peers to develop creative and original ideas that can question the way things are done today with good reason and new ideas of how things can be done better.

Students should be given the opportunity to learn all these things by a teacher who is excited about and interested in the subject matter. Teachers should seek to expand the minds of students and give them every opportunity to succeed. They should provide stability and consistency in the lives of students who may or may not have these characteristics in other facets of their lives. They should be life-long learners themselves and seek to grow and learn with their students. A good teacher is also a good student. Teachers should seek to teach students how to apply what they learn to real life and they should inspire students to be life long learners too. They should be sensitive to different learning styles and provide a variety of ways for students to interact with the content of a lesson. One thing that marks a good teacher is a classroom with few if any discipline problems. The key to discipline is a great teacher. If a teacher has a lesson well planned and students are actively participating in the lesson as soon as they enter the room, there is much less room for a discipline problem to occur.

In teaching art, one is given a special ability because art not only encourages higher cognitive thinking but it also incorporates every other subject. In this way, art is like a learning lab. It spans more than just defining color, spaces, lines, and shapes. It blends current events, science, math, the newest technologies, social studies, history, everything else. I think that if one is given the ability to make art and do so by incorporating everything one has learned, not only will he have made something worth keeping or selling but he will have created a lasting impression on his mind of the things he's learned and applied into an art piece. I think art is a way to bring real life and abstract ideas into a cohesive whole.

What is the most rewarding thing at the end of the day for a teacher, I believe, is that the lessons taught in the classroom have sparked a flame in students' minds which will keep them questioning, seeking, and learning for their whole lives. The art of educating is one which goes far beyond just words in a book. It has to do with the educating itself. How a lesson is taught is almost, if not equally, important as the information given in it. It takes a very special person to be a teacher and I only hope that someday I can become half as good at inspiration as my teachers were. 

Wordle: Teaching

Having an educational philosophy written down helps me to constantly strive for my best as a teacher and can be helpful for my students to know what I expect from them and what they can expect from me. In a way, it is like a mental contract that I maintain with my students, whether they know it or not.

This blog, I hope, will help students, parents, and community members to see the progress of their students, what we are learning together as a class, and see the importance of art in society. This kind of documentation of student work and innovation could also be a visual way for people outside of the district to see what we are doing and respond too.

I hope that this class will help me to be more knowledgeable in how to integrate technology into a classroom setting.

In the article we read by Alan November, the point that stood out the most to me was point #6: Collegiality is What's Needed. I thought that it was a good point because in a school, I believe that students learn better when subjects are integrated. This cannot happen unless teachers work together. In my limited experience, schools with a team-based attitude among teachers have a much higher retention rating than those schools where teachers work on their own with little interaction amongst themselves.