Repost: The Tip of the Iceburg

What a cliche to begin with… the reason I chose that particular phrase is because in this blog I am hoping to find some of the best ways to integrate technology (let it be gadgets, software or technique) into the secondary level English classes.  This first post will hopefully start to shed some light.

I am a technology enthusiast; some may even go as far to label me as a geek.  As a future educator, I am looking for ways to combine the new technologies that students have access to and the more traditional curriculum that the students face.  In particular, I will explore new writing technology, which includes the gadgets that are being used, the software that is constantly changing, as well as, but not limited to, the techniques used to teach such technology.

To help me learn more I have set up my Google Reader to follow a number of different sites as follows:

Education:

The BBC: Education; I follow this in order to stay on top of what is going on in the global education world rather than the US alone

Google News: Education; The ease of receiving all of the major newspapers, plus many others, was the main attraction.

Educational Technology Resources and Tips: A Blog By Ann Bell; This is a blog that covers and explores Web 2.0 and some of the ways that educators can integrate technology.

MSNBC.com: Education; This is another way to get broader headlines.  I am really just hoping to catch some interesting news in education that might not be in the Google News section.

Google News: New Writing Technology; This is a more specific search that should return articles and headlines that are much closer to the topic that I am looking to cover.

New York Times: Education; This is yet another source for major headlines.  What I am hoping to achieve with a large number of feeds from more prominent sources is a large number of headlines that will contain some reliable variety.

EBSCO; My last edition to the education part of my feed is a search on the EBSCO database.  It is a search for all articles about new writing technology.
Technology:

Chris Pirillo; The feed for Chris Pirillo is not directly related to education, but it does help to create a large awareness of what is happening in the world of technology.  I am a faithful follower of his so this choice was a no brainer.

Geekbrief.tv; If I recall correctly, this is where I first learned of Chris Pirillo.  Geekbrief is really known for their video podcasts with their host Cali Lewis.  If you aren’t sure about technology and need to know about any gadgets, I would absolutely check out Geekbrief.  These are the people that sold me on spending the extra money to purchase my MacBookPro.

MSNBC.com: Internet/Gadgets; I am subscribed to both the feeds in order to hear not only about trendy things, as I might hear about on Geekbrief, but to hear about other technology that may relate more closely to education

To check out these different areas you can check out the links below:

MSNBC: Education

MSNBC: Internet

MSNBC: Gadgets

BBC: Education

Google News: Education

New York Times: Education

Chris Pirillo

Geekbrief.tv

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We All Knew the Time Would Come…

So as the semester begins to wind down, and by wind down I mean get crazy, so does this blog.  Over the past three or so months I have been blogging with an educational technology focus and using Google Reader.  Here are some closing thoughts:

1. I don’t love Google Reader.  It is great if you can remember to log in to it everyday.  I tried adding the widget for Mac OS X, but it just told me I had a number of new updates.  I didn’t see headlines or anything.  I will personally continue to use plug-ins via FireFox.

2. I’m not meant for educational blogging.  My topic was a little bit hard to find good articles for.  Often I went searching for articles that I thought might pertain to technology and education.  Lots of my feeds gave me noneducational or nontechnology related articles.  I didn’t love remaining in such a narrow topic.  If you know me, this really should be a suprise.

3. This might be my most important point (which means this is the part I actually will take away from this educational blog).  This point is best described by the following quote:

“We are 20th-century teachers using 19th-century methods to reach 21st-century students.”

As a future educator, I must learn how to use technology in order to enhance my students’ learning.  The population around us often suggests that we teach students as they have always been taught, but looking at the research, it is clear a change must be made in this country’s educational system.  Why do Chinese students who have less formal education learn and comprehend mathematics better than the American students?  Could it be that our 19th centry methods are failing us?  My guess is absolutely.  It’s time to use the technology that we have created in order to give our students a chance at learning more and more deeply. Let’s find ways to make it affordable or at least reasonable.  Let’s teach our students the skills that they will find themselves using in their future.  Let’s teach our students how to use technology to further themselves in life.

So, is this really the last blog post I will write?  Certainly not.  Will I be writing in this blog again?  Not any time soon.  But I will be moving an old blog to be linked to this one.  If you are interested, the new blog will be “The old, the new and the in-between,” which you may recognize.  This was my blog name from tvguide.com.  I will move that and discuss more than the entertainment business.  So, mark this down on your to-do list:  Check out Jessi’s Blog in the next week or so.  If you have any questions about this blog, my other blog or any old (and coming soon) podcasts feel free to email me at jlgpodcasting@gmail.com.

Comments made by me

http://thebore4.wordpress.com/2008/09/17/how-young-is-too-young/

http://makeitepic.wordpress.com/2008/09/04/standarized-testing-for-kindergarten/

http://kennedad77.wordpress.com/2008/09/21/using-hip-hop-within-the-classroom/

http://diezwiebel.wordpress.com/2008/10/20/the-necessity-of-religion-in-education/

http://ghannaml.wordpress.com/2008/09/23/young-dreaming-of-living-abroad/

http://carreli.edublogs.org/2008/09/21/how-can-teens-remember-literary-texts/#comments

http://ehaveman05.wordpress.com/2008/10/21/language-is-power-power-is-white/#comment-16

http://vanbeckj.wordpress.com/2008/10/21/those-who-cant-spell-teach/

http://mwalimu23.edublogs.org/2008/11/30/esl-activities/#comment-25

http://laurensibula.wordpress.com/2008/12/01/naked-snowboarding/#comment-21

I’m All About Tweeting in the Classroom!

Well… this article did not manage to find its way to my feed.  But I’m telling you I love it.  I am probably showing my bias a bit, but who wouldn’t loving tweeting?  Now obviously I’m not talking about making bird noises by myself… weird.  The tweeting I’m talking about is leaving messages on Twitter.

For those of you who don’t know Twitter let me explain.  Twitter is a social networking site in which you are given 140 characters (just like a text message) to send what ever message or link you want to the cyberland subspace of Twitter.  You can let people know what you are doing or give them a link to a recent blog post or upload.  The messages you leave are tweets.  You can follow your friends and receive their updates on your homepage.  Here is a picture of my homepage:

my twitter

This next picture is of CaliLewis of geekbrief.tv’s profile.  It is all of her tweets on the page.  This is a great example of using links and the @username feature.  If you want to reply to someone’s tween in your own tweet you just type @username to refer to them and they will be notified of the tweet.

cali-twitter

Anyways, I found this blog post from ZDNet by Christopher Dawson on Twitter.  Dawson does make use of Twitter in the educational setting.  Specifically he says:

I have let high school students use it for group projects and class work time, throwing out ideas, thoughts, and questions for their classmates. Even now, the students I’ve introduced to Twitter use it for crowdsourcing.

I think it is a great place for students to brainstorm ideas.  They can use it to share ideas for paper topics or to see if other students have any suggestions.  The students will also be able to share links to useful sites and articles as well. If students do want to share links I would suggest showing them a website that makes links shorter.  Personally, I use TinyURL.com.  You can take a long link and turn it into something that doesn’t use all 140 characters of your tweet.

Another great feature for the instructor is that if the teacher requires all students to set up a Twitter account they will be able to monitor the students.  They can see how they interact with one another.  Also, the teacher might pose an open ended question that doesn’t really require a correct answer, just some thinking, and get students’ responses outside of class time.  I’m the kind of person who always thinks of something better later, and it’s best if I can tell people right away or I forget.  Twitter or something of the sort would provide a place for students to be heard and archived at all hours.

If you have never used Twitter set up an account today at twitter.com. Oh yeah, and feel free to add me!

California’s Integrated Language Arts

As of November 7, 2008 the California State Board of Education has approved a new integrated curriculum by Pearson for reading.  This vote was unanimous as reported by PR Web (Press Release Newswire).  This new curriculum is specially designed for the state of California.  Since there are approximately 1.5 million English language learners speaking over 300 languages, this curriculum is designed to help the ELL students learn English and not hinder their learning in other subjects.

Something else that interested me in this new curriculum is the inclusion of technology.  I think that subjects based heavily in literature are often denied the use of technology because educators are unsure of how to incorporate it.  However, the press release about the new curriculum states

The Pearson programs also recognize the reality that the state’s students are reading and writing on computers, surfing the Internet, gaming, and texting on cell phones many hours every day. Bush said, “If we are to engage our more than six million California students effectively, we need to meet these digital natives on their own turf and ensure that teaching and learning embraces the technologies that are such a pervasive part of the world they live in. This component is one of the key differentiators of our Pearson programs.”

Although I have looked into the curriculum some, I am unsure of exactly how technology is used to enhance the students’ learning.  The press release sort of describes the use of technology as:

Pearson’s programs are complemented by SuccessMaker Enterprise, digital courseware providing a diagnostic and individualized 21st Century approach toward learning to meet the needs of different learning styles – including students who are gifted, at-risk, or English language learners and those served by special education. With a proven record of improving student success for California students, SuccessMaker Enterprise addresses the full range of learner abilities through standards-based, targeted curriculum.

However, this to me, does not explain how the technology is used.  I’m a little skeptical on how technology will do all the above.  But I do have faith that this is a step in the right direction.

As a Mathematics and English major I know in math that there is a slow movement towards integrated math.  Instead of teaching Algebra 1, Algebra 2 and Geometry as seperate courses the students learn all three subjects at the same time over the course of three years.  This helps students as the information becomes more coherent.  So, I think that Pearson’s inclusion of integrated language arts skills in their curriculum is a very good idea, in particular for ELL students.

As Dr. Diane August, one of the authors of the curriculum, points out an integrated curriculum can help ELL students by:

— Scaffolding techniques that make content concepts clear.
— Additional practice to reinforce key words, skills, ideas, and concepts.
— In-line curriculum support for teachers to help ELs master the same content as their English proficient peers.
— Videos demonstrating these various techniques in action provided as part of the Professional Development Reading Video library.
— Opportunities for interaction with English proficient peers, which is instrumental to developing a second language.
I don’t have a lot to say about this and how technology enhances the learning yet.  But I would suspect in the next year or so if this goes well, many states will adopt many of these new ideas.  Hopefully more states will follow suit anyways and include more technology since the students today are the children of the computer and cell phone.
Here is the link to the press release.
California State Board of Education. “California State Board of Education Approves Pearson’s Breakthrough Reading Programs for State’s Students.” Press release. 9 Nov. 2008. 16 Nov. 2008 <http://www.prweb.com/releases/2008/11/prweb1588274.htm>.
Here is the link to the article on Dr. Diane August
“Glencoe Literature California Author Provides Insight for Developing English Learners.” Press release. 10 Nov. 2008. Glencoe/McGraw Hill. 16 Nov. 2008 <http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/glencoe-literature-california-author-provides/story.aspx?guid={ba99470b-3050-4c27-a111-f15a08ebc4b5}>.

Can the Kindle be used in a classroom?

There are some people who believe that a product like the Kindle is unnecessary or excessive.  I will admit, reluctantly, that at one time I belonged to this camp.  But the more I read and hear about the Kindle, the more I get excited.  There are so many ways that this could become a staple to every English classroom.  But, of course, before this gadget can become an integral part of a classroom, we are going to need to see a few adjustments.

For instance, let’s talk price.  $359.  Now, I know that people pay this much for mp3 players and iPods, but this isn’t even including the price of purchasing books.  I think that if Amazon is interested in being the pioneers into the classroom the price will need to come down considerably.  Or at least we need to give the schools a nice discount.  As Jason Perlow mentions in his Tech Broiler blog, this is not a product for mass consumer adoption.

However, for an English class it might allow teachers the opportunity to teach more books if they had such a gadget.  I think that it would be necessary to allow schools to also get books at a cheaper price seeing as they don’t just buy one book.  As Perlow says in his blog the average college text book on Kindle is cheaper than the average price for a used text.  Seeing as this saves quite a bit of money over time, we can see that the same would be for many Kindle books.  This would allow teachers and administration to allocate some of the money elsewhere or even to purchase new books more often.

I’m not going to sugar coat this and pretend I think this is the best idea ever.  You have a few downsides.

One: You are allowing students to handle expensive technology, and now you have to decide if they can only read when they are in class.  Are you going to let them take this home?

Two: It is a big investment.  Although I am thoroughly convinced that over time a school could save a lot of money (assuming the price of a Kindle becomes economical for mass adoption), it is a huge start up cost.  It falls under the “you have to spend money to save money” category.

Three: Technology is changing really quickly.  If technology is changing this quickly now, imagine how fast technology will change over the next two or three years!  It is possible that by the time you have saved enough money to make it worth your while there will be much better technology available.  (Which is a good reason to look into renting technology for your school)

Overall, I think that the Kindle could be a good addition to the English classroom.  However, I might hold out and see how long such technology will last.  If it makes it to the point where Kindle reduces greatly in price, I would definitely suggest looking into this gadget.

I first learned about the Kindle from Geekbrief.  If you want to know more check out Geekbrief.tv.  Also, for more on the Kindle Economics check out Jason Perlow’s blog entry here.

Kids really do know how to spell “you”

As somewhat of a technology enthusiast, I love hearing about new gadgets and technologies from Geekbrief.tv and others.  This isn’t necessarily about wonderful new gadgets, but Chris Pirillo discussed the necessity for basic spelling and grammar on the internet on October 13, 2008.  There is a link to Chris Pirillo’s blog entry at the end of this entry, but note that going to his website is a great idea.  He has corresponding video to the blog entry.

I feel like there are so many teachers and parents concerned that instant messaging and text messaging will corrupt the students.  They fear that the students won’t remember “proper English” or how to spell simple words like you.  I would definitely argue that the children know how to spell “you” they just choose not to. However, as a future English teacher I would agree that students need to maintain the basic spelling and grammatical skills in the internet.

If I am going to ask my students to type their papers or maintain a blog, I think that it is necessary for me to supply them with resources to make their blog more polished.  Chris suggests an acronym PUGS, which stands for Punctuation, Usage, Grammar and Spelling.  I think that in a blog this would be important for students to remember, but if they can’t remember all of that or miss some of the mistakes in their review of it they may need some extra help.

This is where Chris suggests Spellcheck.  It is simple enough that grade school children learning to type paragraphs could use it.  All you have to do is copy the text that you want to have reviewed and paste it in the text box provided on the page.  You could also start by typing your work in the box as you go.  Then you press the spell check button and a box pops up.  There are three tabs, spelling, grammar and thesaurus.  You click on the one you would like to have the program check for you and you have options to change things or leave them as is.

I wouldn’t suggest to students that they take everything the program suggests to change, but at least students now have the option of finding some synonyms to use or a way to find some grammatical mistakes.  They can use this with email, papers or a blog.  I would also want to emphasize to students that this does not mean that they do not need to know how to spell or correct grammar, but this is a tool to help you become a better writer.

Link to Chris Pirillo’s website

Link to the specific blog post: Are Punctuation, Usage, Spelling and Grammar Important?