Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Summative Project

After a term full of new ideas and tools to become better teachers here is a small representation of some of what I've taken from the class:

Good luck to everyone!

Friday, March 4, 2011


Though not the only edublogger I am following (a lot of us seem to be following the same people, so I thought I’d put forward someone new here), the edublogger I am writing about here is Larry Ferlazzo (  He is a edublogger  and English Language Teacher, but his blogs have relevance for any teacher, especially when you consider the rising importance of EAL in our classrooms.  
He claims to possess little tech savvy, which actually is another good reason follow him, because he is at the same level as many of us.  To quote a line from his page: “I believe that technology has its place, but also has to be kept in its place. I don’t think computers are a “magic bullet,” and though I believe they  offer a particular “value-added” benefit to English Language Learners, I’m less convinced about their advantages for non-ELL’s.”  The benefit in this view is that even though he has his doubts about the usefulness of technologies in the classroom he is still promoting it here.  So what he shares is really good stuff that is practical and easy to use, not convoluted or a sort of technology for the sake of technology at all.  
Also, a lot of what is on this site has nothing to do with technology, but is just good reads about his methods, experiences and ideas about being a good teacher.  One good example of this is his ‘What To Do When You’re Having A Bad Day At School’ post (  It is fairly straightforward stuff, but it is a good reflection and got me thinking about the things I can do when things go south, as he says, in my classroom.  He hyperlinks to relevant blogs throughout any posting of his, so you can keep mining for good things along whatever topic you’re currently reading about.  
Another cool feature of his blog is that he has a listing of his most popular blog posts for all of the past months, which really makes it easy to find good postings that are relevant to the reader. He rates sites and apps monthly and yearly and shares his best posts along the sidebar.  His blog really connects you to so much great info!  I highly recommend everyone add him to your RSS or subscribe to him today!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The "Networked Teacher"

This past Tuesday we had presenter Alec Couros speak to us on the “Networked Teacher.”  He had the disadvantage of speaking to us last and many of the points he brought up we had discussed already in class.  But I found his unique slant on the moving forward with the Internet in classrooms interesting and inspiring.  

One of the ideas I found the most interesting was when he mentioned how networks are redefining our connections.  Social medias, like facebook, have apparently granted us more ‘friends’ than we may have ever dreamed of having, but that is because the definition of a facebook friend is somehow different than what we used to think of as a friend.  This then extends to several other aspects, like communities, citizenship, identity, presence, and privacy.  As teachers we need to get a handle on what this changing landscape means to better prepare our students to confront it.

Which leads me to my favourite part of his presentation.  This would be his line: “SCHOOLS SHOULD BE LIABLE FOR NOT EDUCATING THEIR STUDENTS TO THE DANGERS AND THE WAYS TO PROTECT THEMSELVES ONLINE!”  That may not be an exact quote, but I assure you the sentiment is correct.  I feel this is the attitude we should be carrying with us as educators.  And not just because it motivates us to teach our students better online practices, but because it will open the eyes of those dragging their heels administrators that block websites and limit students contact with computers and the Internet.  It is this sort of thinking that can help usher in a new attitude towards what we are teaching our kids and how we do it!

Monday, February 28, 2011

A Good Web 2.0 App

For my recommendation I thought I'd look for something that I could use in an ELA classroom. It is aimed at younger students, but I think it could be used at any grade with a little imagination.  I found a site called Story Jumper, which lets your students create their own story books. The online versions are free, though you have to pay for hard copies. Registration is quick and easy. Your students can create their own books from “scratch” or use one of the many templates they have.  They offer lots of easy “props” to integrate into the stories, and you can upload your own photos and type your own text. Once you’re finished, you can email the link to yourself and post it on a student/teacher blog or website.

Web-Based Courses (WBCs) Examined

Looking at the WBC Manitoba Education site there is a good number of classes.  All the core classes are well represented and a good list of elective classes for students in smaller communities where they might not be able to offer them.  I’m talking about classes like: Webdesign, Law, French, Accounting, Animation, Drafting, Computer Science and Digital Picture.  There could likely be additions made to this, but I feel it is a good base and I’m sure it will be added to further in the future.

I chose to focus in on ELA since that is the field I am most comfortable and where I hope to teach.  The classes here cover all the options a high school would offer (Literary focus, Transactional, and Comprehensive – and gives solid explanation of each of these sections of ELA) and for each grade.  There is a lot of room for creativity in the assignments and good sequencing and structure to the overall classes.  I can’t judge on how well it works, but there seems to be plenty of support for students through WebCT , where you can contact an actual teacher if the student runs into trouble.  There are extensive explanations and directions available for the student to read about how the course works and what is expected, as well as explaining how the student can make this course as much about themselves as a person as they wish.  This is a great idea, ELA is particularly malleable regardless of the grade, section, or even unit, which makes it a nice match for Web-based learning.  The assignments seem straight forward and the rubrics give a comprehensive description of what the expectations are for the assignments.

My criticism of the ELA courses is that there does not seem to be much effort to make these classes exciting for the students.  It seems very bland, and though I realize reading is an important part of ELA, there is too much cold reading of how this course works to realistically expect all but the most motivated students to complete or excel here.  There does not appear to be a move to incorporate any of the exciting online tools we have been learning about in our class into these courses, which seems like a real missed opportunity.  I think the ELA classes are fine for self-motivated and confident students, but I feel that many students would be uninspired to complete an ELA course with this method.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Smartphones and Laptops Up, iPads Down! (Presentations Blog)

In a class where I don’t think we had a bad presentation, the best I thought was 'The Personal ICT Devices in the Classroom' presentation.  Personally, I don’t have much experience with many of these devices (except the laptop) and this was a very informative and useful presentation that will help colour my opinion of these devices for quite a while.  I really liked the way the criteria was broken down (accessibility, authentic & engaging, features, production, research and community) because it covers all the bases that I would want to know about as a teacher before I picked one out for my class to use (if I was so lucky!).  
After having seen the presentation and digested its info, I am moved from my newly acquired belief that iPads were the future of classrooms.  Having seen the scores in this presentation, though not a wide variance, it is enough to convince me that Smartphones and Laptops are the future of classrooms.  The reason is not simply the scores, but as one of the articles linked in this presentation reveals, Smartphones and laptops are everywhere.  There is less need to worry about the financial burden of bringing these tools into the classroom when everyone already owns them.  I believe the word used in the article was ‘ubiquitous.’   I enjoyed my time with the iPad, but I was annoyed with its typing feature and often clicked on things by mistake when I was trying to scroll.  That along with this great presentation have given me a firm conviction for Smartphones and/or laptops in the classroom. Great job Shaun and Tim! 
Now to find a job in that classroom!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Smart or Dumber: The Internet? It Seems Clear to Me!

My opinion of whether the Internet made us smarter or dumber was unmoved after reading each these articles.  I see the Internet as another link in the chain of development of human connectedness and knowledge that began with the first humans (or primates or whatever you believe) began to talk, then pass on stories.  The printing press, telegraph, telephone, and television have all been links in this chain and the Internet just continues the evolution.  
I found many of the points made in the “Does The Internet Make You Dumber?” article unconvincing.  Quotes like, “What we seem to be sacrificing in all our surfing and searching is our capacity to engage in the quieter, attentive modes of thought that underpin contemplation, reflection and introspection. The Web never encourages us to slow down. It keeps us in a state of perpetual mental locomotion”  seem to be missing the point.  Our minds will always have a place for that quiet contemplation, reflection and introspection, it will just happen when we are not online.  The Internet could be developing a new gear in in our brains, one that allows us to process information at a never before experienced level.  
Another point the “Dumber” article made that I found hard to swallow was, “Reading a long sequence of pages helps us develop a rare kind of mental discipline. The innate bias of the human brain, after all, is to be distracted. Our predisposition is to be aware of as much of what's going on around us as possible. Our fast-paced, reflexive shifts in focus were once crucial to our survival. They reduced the odds that a predator would take us by surprise or that we'd overlook a nearby source of food.”  This point seems to undercut itself.  If reading long passages is an unnatural state for our minds, and the Internet allows us to return to our intended state of “fast-paced reflexive shifts” then is that not a good thing?  Are we not then going with the grain of our minds, instead of against it?  As it stands how many books does the average person read a year?  Of the world population, how many people go years between reading books?  And in addition, books are still there and to be read, so now we have the best of both worlds.  Books for those that would be reading them anyways, and the Internet for them as well, but also for everyone else!
To me, the Internet is still in its beginning stages.  We are just now understanding the possibilities it can allow.  As we have learned in this class the educational applications that the Internet allows alone disprove the “Dumber” argument.  Is everything on the Internet for the betterment of our minds?  No, but neither was every book, or most of TV, or any of the other various forms we had that lead us here.  The Internet is not making us dumber for the simple fact that it is too busy making us smarter.  Today we have so much information and new perspectives at our finger tips that we are seeing the world in a wholly different way.  We can look at Twitter as a fad in meaningless self-expression, or we can look at it as an evolutionary leap that jumped forward from where human biology could not go.  It is, in a way, mental telepathy.  Our thoughts are now made known across the globe instantaneously.  We can know what others are thinking without any guess work.  Plus with the trends function we can see what the global buzz is at any moment.  This allows for a shared collective consciousness that was nowhere on the horizon even five years ago.
The Internet is not making us dumber.  The Internet is taking us to new places, increasing our collective and individual knowledge bases, and best of all it is only just beginning.
Now to totally contradict myself.  Check out this piece entitled “Is Google Making Us Stupid” from the July/August issue of The Atlantic: the very least it dissuades the point about the Internet not engaging us in long-form!