Monday, September 28, 2009

Learning with Computers

This is a blog designed for language teachers which I joined. Its a great resource to see what other teachers from all over the world are doing and has links to other helpful websites. I have already found some ideas for speaking activities that I can use in my classroom!

Click here to check it out!

Connectivism: The Learner of Today

Technology has forever changed how and what people are learning. The classroom of 25 years ago was much different than today. Today's classroom may even be different than that of a classroom only one year ago. Therefore the learner must also change. In my opinion the learner of today must be like a sponge with the ability to soak up new information throughout his or her lifetime. People are no longer able to acquire all of the information they will need for their jobs throughout life. George Siemens wrote, "Learning is a continual process." Siemens goes on to explain that the process of learning is changing. Because of the complex environments that we live in and the social networks we are linked to, learning "is not just limited to occur exclusively inside the individual, but it also exists outside of the individual." If we think of water as knowledge, it exists outside of the sponge, and when added to the sponge, or in this case the learner, it adds to what is already known. This theory is called Connectivism. The premise of Connectivism is that we can gain knowledge through networking with others as well as organizing our information clearly in our internal neural network - again think of the connections in a sponge. Siemens goes on to say that what we know currently is important but not as important as "our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow." Keeping this in mind, the sponge, the learners of today, must be able to filter through all of the information they are bombarded with through their networks and distinguish between what is important and what is unimportant.
Click here to read more about George Siemens' theory of Connectivism

Click here to see George Siemens talk about the Changing Nature of Knowledge

Saturday, September 19, 2009

My Reaction to "A Vision of K-12 Students Today"

This video really brings to attention the gap between teacher's knowledge of technology and children's knowledge of technology. Our students today are growing up with it and learning quickly while many teachers are comfortable with the way they have always done things and do not want to take the time to try new things. Even with my own teaching I do not incorporate technology on a regular basis. If we, as teachers, really want to instruct our students we need to use new methods that will not only engage them in that moment but also really be of use to them in the future.

Also the students in the video held up signs saying they want to learn how to think and analyze. Unfortunately many students shut down when asked to think because they are so accustomed to just retelling memorized information back to the teacher. As teachers we need to find methods of getting students to think without them knowing it. Incorporating technology and things like blogs is an excellent idea to get their attention and encourage them to want to learn more.

However one thing I did not like about the video was the comparison of the United States' education to the education of China. Incorporating more technology into our curriculum is an excellent start to us catching up to China's progress but it is in no way the answer to our problems. I have only been teaching four years but from what I have seen, one of the greatest obstacles in our education system is the negative attitudes toward education where the students and/or parents do not see the value of education. A numerous amount of my own students do not understand why they have to take a foreign language in high school and only complete the minimum requirements. These types of attitudes start at home and until we have an entire shift in attitude about education, all the money and technology will still not let us compete at the same level as China.

Click here to see A vision of K-12 Students Today

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Blog Post #2 - Safe Blogging

It is important to protect the safety of the students whenever using the internet. Between the book and the link I feel they have really covered the main safety concerns so I'm sorry if I sound a little repetitive, but here is my list of things to remember about safe blogging:
1) Do not share student's last name/address/pictures/other personal information
2) Obtain administrator and parent approval before using online sites
3) Always double check links beforehand to ensure students will be led to the correct sites
4) Tell students not to believe everything they read, show how to research blog author, find trustworthy sites to use with children.
5) As the teacher, check all comments before they can be posted and limit who can look at and respond to the blog.
6) If students are working on the blog at school, be sure to monitor what they are doing while on the computer.

Blog Post #1 - Ways I can use a Blog

1. Being a foreign language teacher it seems the best way to use a blog would be to link to a Spanish speaking classroom in a Spanish speaking country. It would be excellent for students to post a response to a question or topic, like describe your typical school day, favorite food, etc. My students would not only could post their response in Spanish (could be graded writing assignment) but also read the responses from the Spanish speaking students, (reading assignment). I could require them to comment on a certain number of Spanish students' entries. My students would be using the language in a real, communicative way and comparing their typical school day, or whatever the topic would be with that of a Spanish speaker. This would actually address several NYS learning standards. As a blogger beginner this seems difficult to coordinate so to start I could connect with another Spanish teacher's class from the Western New York area that I know. Our students could communicate with each other in much the same way. It would be a good learning experience.
2. While most of my students have facebook or myspace using this type of blog may be difficult for some. With that in mind I would like to start off with the students just reading my blog or just commenting. I could post personal journal entries in Spanish and have students read them and translate them for homework or respond to them in Spanish. I also liked the idea the book had about providing online readings and having students read and react to them. In larger classes it is sometimes difficult to provide enough time for every student to express thier own ideas and this would allow all students the opportunity to share. I would also love to have students discuss what they thought about activities we did during class.
3. Personally, blogs seem like great resources to find effective teaching activities, strategies, and games to use in the classroom. Not only will the ideas be posted but also comments from other teachers about how useful they were or helpful hints on how to better implement the strategy. In this case I don't think I would have my own blog about this but rather search out others' blogs to educate myself.