Sunday, July 29, 2012

Edublogger Reflection

In the past two weeks I have perused the posts of several edubloggers, and have found the task thoroughly engaging and enlightening.  The education community is teeming with creative, insightful, and motivating teachers and administrators!  I realize this last statement seems a bit obvious…we have spent the last 6 weeks surrounded by countless teachers/educators who exemplify the very definition of high leverage practice.  But to see the ubiquity of genuine teacher professionalism as evidence by the posts I have read from educators positioned all over the country has been truly encouraging and inspiring.  One author I have particularly enjoyed following is Chris Lehmann, Principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, PA. His blog is visually simple and contextually profound, interesting and thought provoking.  I have found many parallels between my own teaching philosophy and the content he proposes in his entries.  I also very much appreciate his well-composed, direct yet eloquent “tell it like it is” nature, which resonates through statements such as:

“To me, when you ensure your own child has an arts-enriched, small-class size, deeply humanistic education and you advocate that those families who have fewer economic resources than you have should sit straight in their chairs and do what they are told while doubling and tripling up on rote memorization and test prep, you are guilty of educational colonialism.”

In the above passage, Lehmann is referencing the disparity among what some “powerful folks” desire for their own children versus that which they advocate for others based on the political and policy decisions they make. 

As I continue to grown in my own knowledge of what it means to be a successful teacher and how to fully develop my role as a professional in this field, I find strength, inspiration, and even a sense of identify in the words of edubloggers with whom I can relate.

Friday, July 27, 2012

A deviation from education...

Last week, I posted a photo of one of my "babies" but failed to acknowledge the other three!  So, here they are.  Bean (the princess of the family), Caffrey (after a serious bout of digging in the flower bed), and Onyx (the token reptile of the household, our black rat snake)!

And then the world got bigger

Diigo—Evernote—Google Reader—I feel like my awareness of the electronic world just expanded exponentially in a matter of hours!

I was already an avid user of Skype and Dropbox, but I see myself very quickly assimilating either Diigo or Evernote (probably not both, though I am willing to give each an equal shot) into my repertoire of resources.  As each new “device” (for lack of a better term) was introduced, my mind began to spin with the wealth of possibilities that such an online organization tool can offer.  My previous endeavors in organizing noteworthy websites, online articles, and blogs came to a halt once the browser “bookmark” button was clicked.  At the time, this seemed to suffice, however, I now see how useless my past attempts have been with regard to actually making sense of—or putting to any real use—the information bound within these links.   

Diigo and Evernote offer the ability to store, share, edit, annotate, and organize a vast array of files, links, and documents.  This integrative, collaborative, and multi-functional method for storing electronically generated material is not only helpful but, in my opinion, imperative to any comprehensive attempt at optimizing the way in which one interacts with the electronic resources.  Oh how I wish I had known about these things sooner!!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The risks of high-stakes testing...article link

In reading posts from some Edubloggers, I came across this link.  Thought I'd share!

Friday, July 20, 2012

An Epic Experience

All right, last week I’m podcasting and now this week I not only created a webpage (albeit within a super user-friendly context) AND am considering joining the world of Twitter??  What is happening to me??  My only answer is an epic experience called ED 504.

Silliness aside, I am truly beyond impressed with the technological feats that have been tackled in the past few weeks.  Redundant as this comment will seem, progressing from a Facebook-only realm to one in which I am diving into an array of electronic resources is something I did not expect in such a short amount of time.  These tools will not only enhance my efforts at procuring employment following the MAC program but also allow me to be a much more effective teacher!  I’d say that’s all-around win.

What I enjoyed most about today’s class—from the professional portfolio site to the utility of Twitter—is that each topic/tool/idea discussed was extremely simple, unintimidating, and grounded in realistic application.  I found the Weebly site to be very intuitive and I look forward to “jazzing up” my page—when free time becomes a bit more abundant (is it August yet?).  I also really enjoyed our guest speaker, Tom’s demonstration of how to incorporate something as popular and seemingly non-academic as Angry Birds into a math lesson.  He raised the bar for taking a creative, engaging approach to teaching more difficult content, and made a strong case for being mindful of the sacrifices that are often necessary to keep our students from drifting off into the abyss.  Though the authors of the Core Curriculum Guides will call me crazy, I think sometimes quality needs to trump quantity.

Totally unrelated... In an effort to broaden my blog skills, I'm inserting a picture.  Though something the spirit of Angry Birds would be more appropriate, I decided to go with one of my dog, Mason :-) This is his "Mommy, please stop working and take me for a walk" look.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Games Gone Good

Gaming as a way to solve the world’s problems?  People getting smarter, building confidence, and enhancing critical life skills by engaging in virtual realities?  Prior to the articles and TED Talk (by Jane McGonigal) that I read/viewed for this week’s class I would never have thought those concepts made much sense.  However, that ill-informed, previously conceived notion has now completely drifted by the wayside!

As a former biologist, I very much appreciated—and related to—the science analogies James Gee provided in his piece on Good Video Games and Good Learning.  I loved his comparison of what is learned in video gaming and what is learned in biology:

“…Just as what you learn when you learn to play a good video game is how to play the game, so too, what you learn when you learn biology should be how to play that game.”

This made the real-life application of skills acquired through game playing so much clearer to me.  In any realm, whether game worlds, science, arts, literature, or the like, there are a set of rules that you must not only abide by but become an expert in.  I also found several very interesting similarities between the field of gaming and the field of education.  For instance, Gee references a player’s “regime of confidence” which correlates to level of play.  In order to keep gamers enthralled and committed, good games stay within, but at the outer edge of a player’s skill level.  This concept precisely parallels the “zone of proximal development” that we refer to in education.  From forming identities to forging interactive relationships to risk-taking for the sake of progression and success, the characteristics of the gaming world resonate strongly with our goals for high leverage practices in education!  The implications of taking a game-like approach to the way in which we create classrooms and curriculum seem endlessly optimistic.

Continuing on that sentiment, Jane McGonigal’s TED Talk truly blew me away.  I was completely captivated by her passion for creating a society that embraces good gaming as a catalyst for making our world a better place.  Perhaps its lofty, perhaps its unrealistic…but, if by jumping feet-first into the gaming domain we could actually promote a civilization of “super-empowered, hopeful individuals” who are committed to embarking on “epic adventures” to solve the greatest real-world problems of our time, then I say it’s worth one heck of a shot!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Friday the Thirteenth

The 504 double feature of a class today was absolutely fantastic!  Our science group had an excellent discussion with the Media Center Specialist, Pat, from Brighton Public Schools.  We began by sharing our ideas for classroom lessons based on the NYC Soda Ban Proposal.  As our objectives emerged, we expanded our perspectives on how best to assess student learning and what activities to include.  With each new topic, the information and resources that Pat shared with us were truly invaluable.  From the MEL (Michigan eLibrary) site to her own school’s library page filled with a wealth of resources for teachers and student alike, we learned an incredible array of techniques and tools for incorporating technology into a science classroom.  I came away from our session feeling inspired, excited, and eager to start designing lessons for my own future classes!  I also can’t help but cross my fingers and hope that wherever I end up, I will be in a school with fellow science teachers who are as receptive to and involved in collaboration as our STEM cohort!

After the break for lunch, we gathered with one of the other content-area groups to share our experiences from the morning session.  It was really neat to learn about their approach to the same prompt.  We had totally different objectives, widely different activities, and applied a host of different technological resources.  I was amazed at how many unique directions could be taken, all from a single media source/topic!

We wrapped up the day with our first—we, at least MY first—experience in podcasting.  The task itself was quite fun, but Kristin’s humor added to the lesson and made a Friday afternoon class seem less like work and more like play J  Definitely what I needed to end a rather long (but typical) MAC week!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Soda Situation

As a former pseudo-New Yorker (I returned to Michigan last year after 3 years living/working in Manhattan and Brooklyn), I’ve been following the NYC soda ban issue for quite some time. 

I have never really been much of a soda drinker, and consider myself to practice fairly health-conscious habits on a regular basis.  So, when I first heard of Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed war against the sugary beasts that are mega-sized soft drinks, I was all too eager to jump on board. 

My exposure to the topic began while living in New York.  Evidence of the effort to educate people on the harmful effects of sugary beverages can be found almost everywhere.  From the graphic posters of sugar packets turning into oozing lard as they pour into soda bottles to the gut-wrenching commercials of obese children being ostracized on the playground, the City of New York makes very clear their stance on unhealthy obsessions with glucose.  Efforts such as this advertising campaign, along with the recently proposed size limitations on certain soft drinks are aimed at one goal: education.  While many will wave their arms and shout from the rooftops that these actions represent an attempt to play the controlling role of “big brother,” I would argue that the city is merely trying to educate people on the harmful effects of a potent “drug” that is wreaking havoc on our society.  Bloomberg and his supporters are sending a message that, just like alcohol and tobacco, unrestricted sugar consumption has major consequences.  The ultimate decision of whether or not to gulp down these drinks has NOT been taken away from the individual consumer!  Everyone is free to continue to purchase the beverages they want, when they want them, wherever they go.  The proposed ban on super-sized beverages merely serves to remind the general public that such drinks are best treated as “desserts” rather than as the nutritional supplements that some people seem to believe them to be. 

I know many will inherently disagree with my opinions—and truth be told, I wavered for a while on my own position.  However, in an effort to deviate from my typical “I can see both sides” perspective, I perused through as much factual and opinionated information I could find and settled on this side of the coin, or rather soda can.  I suppose it is always best to err on the side of health and education. :-)

Now that the whole “where do you stand” thing has been covered, it’s time to move into some teaching ideas.  As a future biology instructor, I think this is a perfect subject to tackle in class.  The soda proposal is grounded in scientific studies that link excess sugar consumption to health problems, including obesity and diabetes.   Since it is a popular media topic, students would likely find the electronic newspaper and magazine articles and editorials interesting and fairly easy to read, but these sources could be used to segue into reading scientific journal articles that support the general content.  Additionally, I can envision several possibilities for laboratory exercises ranging from simple tests for analyzing the amount of sugar found in various common food items to more elaborate experiments measuring the direct impact of sugar on microorganisms (which actually can be done quite feasibly using Daphnia and typical lab supplies/equipment).

Despite the divergent opinions on the actual proposed policy, this soda debate brings to light some critical issues about public health and our own food consumption that I believe provide a great “teachable moment” that we as educators should not let pass by!

Monday, July 2, 2012

And so it begins...

Welcome to my first-ever blog post!  I have contemplated for several days now on how best to kick off this new “technological journey.”  I’ve never been one for journaling, and when it comes to utilizing social media, my experience comes to a halt at Facebook.  Even in that realm, my level of participation rarely exceeds the obligatory weekly status update, sporadic “liking” of links or quotes, and posting of way too many pictures of my dogs. 

When writing, I tend to labor over each sentence—if not word—so, unless for the purpose of something academic, I much prefer to express myself through speech.  That being said, as I read the insightful and witty entries of my peers I can see the merit in the blogging method.  Though I’m a bit resistant, I will do my very best to embrace it!

Now, on to the task at hand…delving into my reflection on our class last Friday.

I have truly enjoyed and appreciated the discussions we’ve had during our MAC classes overall.  We interact, we challenge one another, we respectfully listen to new ideas and perspective and, along the way, we learn a lot more than we ever would on our own!  Our experience on Friday no exception—we quickly engaged in a thought provoking, intriguing discussion about using technology in our classrooms.

I think I was most “wowed” by the idea that you can completely change the process of learning just by adding in a single new dimension.  With the example of bringing a digital camera to class, the students completely altered their approach to a lab exercise the moment they realized they would be accountable for their work in a public context.  Hmmmmm…sounds like ME right about now!!  (Knowing that this blog is visible to anyone and everyone has me trying my best to write as eloquent a piece as possible—doubtful I’ll succeed J)

As teachers-in-training, we have an overwhelming amount of new information to process—theories of practice, pedagogical styles, the psychology of our students, curriculum standards.  Adding in yet another dimension—technology—at first seemed rather daunting to me (admittedly, I am not the most technologically savvy person).  However, I have to say that after reading about the ways to cultivate an interactive classroom and the importance of teaching to “digital natives” in a way that has substantial meaning, I’m less intimidated about the need to create a “tech friendly” environment and more excited to take on the challenge!