Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Journal #7: Personal Learning Network

A PLN is a Personal Learning Network, which is a network of individuals who are all learning collaboratively together.  Many PLN's have tools through which the group connects and for me it has been via Twitter and Diigo.  Twitter, a micro blogging website, allows for information to flow quickly between members of a PLN in the form of links, organized chats, quick posts etc.  As a tool, Twitter has helped me gain new contacts in the fiend of education and have a place to reflect with other educators on experiences in the classroom.  My other tool that I have been working with is Diigo, which allows its users to bookmark web pages, share them with others, and search for resources on the web put together by the users personal network created through the site.  Currently on Diigo I am connected with various educators who I can track to see what they feel is relevant with regards to education.  As a teacher, this has helped me build a variety of web pages as resources, track what other educators find to be applicable information, and organize ideas with the wider community with the intention of putting our experiences into action!
'Updated PLN Wordle' photo (c) 2008, Sue Waters - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
For my network with Twitter, I am following some educators and other mathematicians.  The educators I have chosen post a variety of useful information which I know I can use as a new teacher.  It would be helpful to be able to learn from the experiences of others and regularly check in on their new learnings and experiences.  The mathematicians are there for me to keep track of new exciting developments in the math community.  The way we teach math is in a constant state of evolution and being able to see the new applications, especially with the higher forms of math, would be helpful in engaging students.  During the edchat discussion on TweetChat about technology in the classroom, July 31st at 9:00am, there was so much information going by so fast that I had a hard time keeping track of what we were talking about.  At times the discussion went to keeping students engaged in the classroom, while other times people were asking about how technology was advancing.  For me, it was hard to put together the various posts because things moved so quickly that I was having a hard time making sense of it but I think that's simply because of my inexperience in Twitter.  In time I hope to better follow the conversation and contribute more relevantly.

Diigo has allowed me to follow educators who have been doing work in various educational fields.  Edward B. works as a math teacher who seems to tag resources I will be able to use as a new teacher but also takes part in intriguing groups and discussions which also caught my interest.  Megan B. is a part of various educational groups but also she sounds like she is a new teacher so it would be awesome to see what she has found to be important in her studies.  All other followings through Diigo are in similar situations, they are all those working in education who share useful websites through the multiple educational groups they are a part of.  For my tags in Diigo I tagged a site which focuses on what's new in education.  I feel this will be a useful tool in keeping up to date on new strategies and developments in the field.  Another site I felt was important to keep track of is called Deep Thinking.  This site seems to discuss the formalities a little more when it comes to education.  It has posts regarding student teaching which I look forward to reading but the blog hasn't been updated since 2008 so I may try to find alternative sources of the archives of this site seem outdated.  And finally I found a blog which refers to education as an artichoke, "Looking at the hearts, leaves and thistles of teaching and learning."  With such a great tagline how can someone interested in education not want to see what people on the site have to say!


The post I reflected on was a search for reliable math videos to be used for education.  In my experience with various Internet based learning sites, instructional videos can make a powerful influence on the learning of the individual.  One of the video sites I've used has been Khan Academy which has always helped my students become more independent learners.  Other users suggested sites like http://mathtrain.tv/ and http://teacher.tenmarks.com.  I was impressed with the helpfulness of the network of people.  Looking at this post, as well as others, I felt like no matter what resources were needed, people were willing to show their support and share useful information.  I am definitely going to keep this as resource for the future when I have need to look for additional resources.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Journal #6: Ten reasons to get rid of homework (and five alternatives)

Spencer, J. T. (2011, September 19). Ten reasons to get rid of homework (and five alternatives). Retrieved from http://www.educationrethink.com/2011/09/ten-reasons-to-get-rid-of-homework-and.html 

While reading the article above regarding homework I kept having little flashbacks to different homework assignments I was forced to do and at the same time I thought about things that I decided to teach myself.  The entire article points out many powerful reasons why giving out homework is a bad idea, most of which claim that homework is counter productive.  At one point in the article it talks about how if a student wants to learn something, he or she will do informal homework for the study of that subject.  When reading this I thought about how when I was learning guitar I practiced hours a day.  I had no instructor telling me to do so, and if I had I probably wouldn't have practiced.  Most of the time it wasn't fun for me to practice as much as I did but at the same time I wanted to learn and develop.  The actual learning is what was exciting to me.  When I took up jiu jitsu the same thing happened.  I met with a friend of mine, studied more than what was required in the class, practiced and developed past my classmates in my technical skill.  At the same time, I have always loved math and working through problems, but when I was forced to complete homework assignments there was suddenly unneeded pressure which made me less productive and I spent many nights hating the practice of math because I was so concerned with getting things right and worrying about my grade in the class.  

5 alternatives to homework:

1.  Have all work done in class but offer alternative options of independent study outside the classroom where students can put what they have learned into practice and if desired, share it with the class or reflect regularly with the teacher about it.
2.  Have classwork always be working towards an actual goal, whether it be a website or project etc.  Something that the students can chose to build on their own time and explore various aspects of the project with peers.
3.  In the beginning of the year take the time to find out what each student is interested in and how they would want to explore concepts and build curriculum around that.  This could maybe be done through surveys or even meetings with the parents.  This way the student can feel that they are working in a field they are happy in and get to incorporate their studies into that subject.
4.  Create blocks of time that students visit with the teacher to discuss different concepts related to the given subject.  Often professors in math and science classes offered to stay after and talk to students about research they were doing and various topics other than the classroom assignments and the excitement and energy to learn was enhanced by building that relationship.
5.  I don't know if this would work but in a way, work backwards.  Start with what needs to be learned and show what the goal, whether it is prepping for a test, completing a project etc.  And provide avenues to complete the task at hand.  We do this in our EDUC 422 class with various assignments.  We show what we are aiming to complete and then we are left to work to get to that point.  Some will come in early, some follow step by step tutorials, some work during class or work past the class, etc.  All to reach an end goal.  And we are given the opportunity to turn in work multiple times so there is no pressure of screwing up when you go off on your own to figure something out.
'homework.' photo (c) 2008, anthony kelly - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Monday, July 23, 2012

Journal 4: "Join the Flock" and "Enhance Your Twitter Experience"

'Twitter Monster' photo (c) 2009, Rosaura Ochoa - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Ferguson, H. (2010, June). Join the flock!. Learning & leading, 37(8), 12-14. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/learn/publications/learning-and-leading/issues/Join_the_Flock.aspx

 Miller, S.M. (2010, June). Enhance your twitter experience. Learning & leading, 37(8), 14-17. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/learn/publications/learning-and-leading/issues/Join_the_Flock.aspx

In studying the article "Join the Flock" I found myself immediately confused with what a PLN was, luckily it was explained by the second paragraph.  A PLN is a community who learns together.  The article takes things step by step to guide you into building your online community to learn from through Twitter, expressing how each step contributes to the bigger picture of developing your PLN.  Starting with setting up an account and creating a bio and ending with the importance of contributing to the stream of information created within you PLN, the article has helped me understand why we created twitter accounts to begin with.  Originally I was extremely hesitant because I always vowed to never create such a pointless social account but this article has guided me to understand how important the 140 characters are in establishing the foundation of a useful tool in education.
A perfect compliment to “Join the Flock,” “Enhance Your Twitter Experience” goes into the details of becoming an active twitter user and continues to nurture the excitement of such a useful educational tool.  In reading the the article it seems there is a freedom to being limited by 140 characters.  It is enough to not “make a fool of yourself” while still connecting people “to blogs and websites.”  But I would have to say my favorite part of the article is the twitter twerminology towards the end.  It seems that with every great Internet sensation comes a flood of terminology that can overwhelm less familiar users.  So I for one am grateful to know about things like Hashtags, Twaffic, Tweeple and so on.
Q1:  How would someone be able to sort through the useless information on twitter to find helpful information?
Based on my understanding of twitter and the article, it seems that this could be best accomplished through the use of hashtags and following the right set of people.  I think that professionals would refrain from posting/tweeting useless information as to maintain their professional demeanor.  At the same time, hashtags allow someone to sort through what seems to be endless information for what is specifically useful to them.  Through time and dedication it would seem that the community one builds on twitter would define how productive tweeting can be.
Q2:  How could any real progress be made in conversations when everything is limited to such a small number of characters?
Often when we look for information we can be overloaded with long pages of information and descriptions.  Having such a limited dialogue box allows us to simply communicate in highlights rather than essays.  Although we can easily listen to one person’s long rant about what they feel is important, having a 140 character limit allows for twitter users to sort through dozens of opinions and thoughts in the time it may take to read through what could be a useless thought of one person. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Journal 3: "Upside down and inside out: Flip your classroom to improve student learning."

Fulton, K. (2012). Upside down and inside out: Flip your classroom to improve student learning. Learning & leading, 39(8), 12-13. Retrieved from http://www.learningandleading-digital.com/learning_leading/20120607?pg=14&pm=2&fs=1

Having worked in semi flipped classrooms for the past couple years it seems that flipping a classroom can be an extremely successful tool for students who are willing to put in the time to independently learn material at home before coming into school the following day to receive additional guidance.  But at the same time in any classroom setting if a student is willing to independently learn material at home before a class, they will of course be more successful.    One of the exciting aspects of a flipped classroom is to be able to see students after studying material and being able to gauge them using quizzes.  It isn’t often that a teacher gets to see how a student absorbs a lesson 12 hours after it has been given and at that point being able to answer questions and provide guidance when working through classwork is a powerful learning tool.   My biggest concern is that the article uses a calculus class from an award winning school to support its point.  I’m sure there are students in calculus classrooms of a traditional sense who are extremely successful as well.  Though the theory of the flipped classroom sounds exciting and like a foolproof way of teaching it also assumes that students will take on the task of learning material on their own and if given any group of students who study at home and watch videos on lessons it would seem they would be more successful for sure.

Q1:  What is to be done about students who do not have access to computers at home?

Although we like to assume students everywhere have computers at home and are capable of watching videos on lessons previously recorded, students who are less fortunate seem to have to study the material in other ways to get the same experience as a lesson in a flipped classroom.  But again, students who face motivational issues may not be able to find creative ways of learning outside of class before coming to school.  It seems that the flipped classroom model doesn’t work for them. 

Q2:  What happens to students who miss a lesson because of uncontrollable situations and therefore are behind in their lessons when they come into class?  How do they go about learning the material?

I think this is a common enough situation that it deserves careful consideration.  Often students who face challenges at home, motivational issues, or are forced to divide their time won’t always be able to keep up with lessons and therefore their time in a classroom the next day would be wasted unless given the resources to go through the lessons within the class.  However the next problem with this is that the student may not be able to work with other students and may continually be playing catch up because the opportunity to work with others on a subject passes them by.  Perhaps it would be important for schools to be equipped with classroom computers to be able to accommodate students who need to work at their own pace.

Journal 2: Technology Self Assessment School 2.0 Reflection Tool


Took the evaluation NETS-T-II

Having read the article entitled “21st Century Teaching and Learning: Assessing New Knowledge” it was clear that teachers cannot afford to let advances in technology pass them by if they wish to be effective educators.   I’ve come to realize that my initial assumption of technology simply making learning more interesting is false and instead technology has the capacity to trace a student’s learning as well as enhance the learning process of students.  Initially I was frustrated with the example of a math teacher simply grading a final result of a problem rather than being able to test and trace the learning process.  But thinking back to countless worksheets and standard tests, things were very much graded on the end result rather than the process to get there.  Often there were simple answer boxes or scantrons to fill out so the teacher wouldn’t have to bother trying to follow the reasoning process of the students.  This emphasis on the process that technology provides is something desperately needed in the field of mathematical education.  The application of technology also powerfully combats the repeated question of “when are we going to use this?” because with the applications of different technologies we can start building skills that can be applied in a professional workplace. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Journal 1: 100 things that make me happy

1.  Random acts of kindness
2.  Playing basketball with my dog
3.  Having meaningful conversations
4.  Getting texts at 2 in the morning
5.  Reaching out to form new friendships
6.  Reestablishing old friendships
7.  Seeing people unify
8.  People looking past the faults of others
9.  People forgiving one another for major issues
10.  Sitting in the sun
11.  Playing disc golf
12.  Watching live performances such as theater
13.  Being near bodies of water such as the ocean or streams
14.  Investigating the connections between religions
15.  Having conversations about oneness of humanity
16.  Investigating the existence of God
17.  Praying
18.  Reading stories of early Bahais
19.  Seeing different kinds of people who have never met come together for something positive
20.  Raising the spiritual awareness of a community
21.  Collaborating with educators on how to improve our educational system
22.  Catching a wave just right when boogie boarding
23.  Asking questions
24.  Hosting interfaith prayer gatherings
25.  Cooking for people
26.  Having someone offer to help in anything
27.  Having someone insist on helping even when you say it is not necessary
28.  Getting into a fight because two people want to help each other too much
29.  Waterfalls
30.  Hawaii
31.  The thought of world unity to the point that we have unity between cities and states.
32.  People asking me questions
33.  Swimming in a pool
34.  Swimming in the ocean
35.  Swimming in a lake/river or swimming whole created by a waterfall
36.  Seeing family unite and get along
37.  Seeing my brother and mother happy
38.  Having meaningful conversations with family
39.  Thai or Vietnamese curry
40.  The appearance of any vegetarian restaurant anywhere
41.  Mushrooms
42.  Playing guitar
43.  Listening to someone play guitar
44.  Listening to a close friend perform something musically
45.  Showering
46.  Clear skies
47.  Imagining the future of humanity
48.  Working to build a new world order
49.  Jiu Jitsu
50.  Playing chess
51.  Playing any card game
52.  Helping other people
53.  Planning events for people
54.  Mexican food
55.  Mexican food at 11pm
56.  Finding secret places in the world and sitting there
57.  Humming birds acting as if you aren't there
58.  Climbing trees
59.  Seeing anything sleep
60.  The color green
61.  The color blue
62.  Having a conversation with someone without speaking
63.  Sharing common experiences with someone
64.  Singing
65.  Gospel Choir
66.  Hiding
67.  Playing volleyball
68.  Discovering truths about life and people
69.  Investigating people's characters
70.  People inquiring about things that aren't related to them
71.  The Bahai Faith
72.  Hearing stories about the kindness expressed by Abdu'l-Baha
73.  Chow mein
74.  Fajitas
75.  Planning a trip to Costa Rica
76.  Finding contentment in life
77.  Being guided by the Will of God
78.  Bahai jokes
79.  Math jokes
80.  Playing hide and seek
81.  Having my dog sit next to me while I play guitar
82.  Going on tangents
83.  People watching
84.  Acting
85.  Saying the word and variations of the word "joy"
86.  Making people's day
87.  Seeing the positive in things
88.  Not knowing things
89.  Knowing things
90.  Watching the wind
91.  Trusting others
92.  Being trusted
93.  Having a purpose
94.  Saying the Tablet of Ahmad
95.  Saying the Long Obligatory Prayer
96.  Saying the Fire Tablet
97.  Sandals
98.  Watching someone learn
99.  Teaching academically
100.  Teaching spiritually