Remonzer’s Weblog

everything that I am learning in EDUC 628

SNS Ethnography: Classroom 2.0 May 9, 2008

Filed under: EDUC 628 — remonzer @ 8:31 pm

SNS Ethnography: Classroom 2.0

Numerous social networking sites have appeared since the Internet evolved from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0.  A quick search will turn up sites that appeal to a wide variety of interests.  I am a member of two social networking sites, MySpace and Classroom 2.0 (CR20).  Although, for entertainment, I enjoy hanging out on MySpace with friends and family, I chose CR20 for an ethnographic study because its focus on education, web tools, and all pertinent factors is important to me and my professional growth as a teacher.  CR20 was created and is maintained by Steve Hargadon, and is supported by educators all over the world. The onus is on educators to get discussions up and running.  Subjects represented on CR20 are:

  • Art
  • Biliteracy-Bilingual Education
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • English
  • English as a Foreign Language
  • English as a Second Language
  • Foreign Languages
  • Geography
  • History
  • Math
  • Music
  • Physical Education
  • Religion
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Membership is free.  Personalized web pages to which pictures, blogs, video, and music may be added are included as well as a message wall.  Members also have the option of setting up a Ning for classes, projects, groups, or events.  One of more of the many threaded discussions can be joined or initiated at any time.  The same is true for groups.   Hosts to CR20 are located on the main page, a very nice touch for directing traffic and alleviating confusion.  Members may also invite friends to join.  I have added a couple of friends whom I have met in person and others that I have met online to my friends’ list.  Recently, I invited six more colleagues. 

CR20 participates in the Ning ID authentication system (easily identified with a special symbol) which allows people to use the same email address and password to access any other social network that takes part in the Ning ID system.  Ning IDs can include basic information and a picture, which is transferred to other participating social networking sites.

Based on my observations, I have reached the conclusion that relationships on CR20 range from basically professional to friendship building.  Some of the discussions that I followed involved people who seemed to have a kinship, even if, for example, one lives in Australia and the other in the United States.  Every post has a date and time stamp as well as the name of who said what and hot links on their names to respond to them so communication can be synchronous or asynchronous. On the main page one can easily see who has been talking to whom about what and when.  After viewing these threaded discussions for some time, I started to recognize names and figure out some of their individual interests. I sort of had the feeling that I was observing my neighbors.

The list of new and ongoing discussions is long and extensive.  While many members seem to be well practiced in the use of Web 2.0 tools, others have little experience with their use – a factor that accounts for fact that tools form the topic of a large number of discussions. Some people need help or want to use tools to collaborate with other teachers.  There are other topics as well such as that of a discussion in which I am currently involved about what everyone’s opinion is on the idea that Spanish language instruction is sometimes the only language offered for students to learn in middle and high school.  As a foreign language teacher, this is interesting to me because as the only foreign language – Spanish – teacher in our school, I have some input.  Another discussion that I am taking part in involves the differences between Portuguese spoken in Brazil and that in Portugal as well as its commonalities to Spanish. 

Groups of diverse sizes and varieties are found on CR20.  Three groups that I belong to are AP 2.0, Green Schools, and iPod Educators.  Some groups are more active than others; some have as few as four members and others have over 300.  Like other features of the site, it is up to members to keep their groups alive and flourishing.  While perusing the groups, I noticed that membership often leads to collaboration with others in other groups, all resulting in the creation of one big workplace.  Also, I noted that participants are very supportive of one another and willing to offer advice, help, or opinions.  In a couple of instances, opinions were offered that were contrary to the main stream of conversation, but the discussion turned a different direction and widened to include previously unstated ideas.

In addition, members may congregate and work on the resources wiki for CR20.  Here, notices of important upcoming events can be posted, changed, and updated as needed.  It serves as a multipurpose adjustable bulletin board.

After emailing Mr. Hargadon with questions about rules on CR20, I initiated a discussion with his urging.  Specifically, my question was:  Are there any kinds of implicit rules or mores that one learns as he or she becomes fully immersed in the Classroom 2.0 community?  He suggested that I post the question to the forum because his experience as the founder of the site would be different from the others.  He also indicated that there weren’t actually any rules except for those regarding commercial organizations and, to date, no reasons had arisen to establish any.   His first response to my inquiry was to ask whether I had encountered a problem.   I had not, but his swift response and apparent concern was evidence to me that someone was available to field troublesome issues in the event that any arose.

The only type of advertising that is allowed on CR20 must be related to common discussions.  Any type of service that violates that rule will be banned.  Paid ads are not accepted, but sponsorships for selected activities are welcome.  To report a suspected violation, members submit links to problematic material to a designated link.  The offender is given one warning.  If the warning goes unheeded, the account is deleted. Businesses that sell products made for uses related to common discussions on CR20 are permitted to chat about their wares because they are created by educators who have seen a need for and can answer questions about their product, and are interested in improving education.  People selling these products must first become members and use their real names.  They are forbidden from discussing their products in blogs or any other place besides a special site created especially for promoting their goods. 

The feature of CR20 that allows teachers to post questions about anything that they are having trouble with and receive timely responses from other members is another feature that endears me to this site.  The first time that I asked for help (I posted some questions for this ethnography) I pondered whether anyone would actually respond and how long it would take, but within hours I had two replies.  Eventually, I hope to have more to contribute than questions and the occasional, “I have had a similar problem” because the environment should be interactive.  At the present time, most of my time is spent reading discussions and making the occasional benign comment.  Live conversations held at a set time are also a feature of CR20.  Numerous programs such as Eluminate, Adobe Connect, Skype and others are used to meet in this forum. 

There are amazing happenings taking place on CR20 that serve as great examples of ways educators can open the world up to their students.  A case in point involves a blog posting by a teacher in Australia who writes about a 9-year-old boy carrying an indigenous lizard down the hallway after recess.  The teacher arranged for the little boy to use Skype to show the lizard to high school students at a school near Seoul, Korea.  That is a prime example of a possible use of Web 2.0 technology and CR20 is the place to learn how.  All of the web tools known to humankind and matching discussions have links on CR20 making it a fountain of resources for teachers who are ready to spend a little time learning.

 

Tags for blogs related to this ethnography are: Classroom 2.0 ethnography and they are filed under the category entitled ethnography – EDUC 628 at Remonzer’s Weblog.

 

Still Stolling Along April 30, 2008

Filed under: EDUC 628 — remonzer @ 10:36 pm

Stoll’s chapter about isolation and the Internet reminded me of a conversation that I once overheard on the subject of soap operas.  One participant declared that she could not understand how some people could watch those shows day in and day out, week after week, and talk about the characters as if she personally knew them.  Another person responded with a story about her aunt who was very sick and for her those stories were a comfort.

 We might extend that thought to the Internet.  Not all of us who sign on everyday are shut-ins, but the Internet does satisfy a wide range of needs.  For example, where once people went to the mailboxes or the newspaper boxes to receive news in the morning, most people that I know get the latest, up-to-date information by signing onto the Internet.  Lots of people pay bills online, renew library books, check theater times, buy stuff, chat with others who have similar interest, take classes…it is a way of life.  Some times we actually get online just to have contact with others.  Still others that I know, after reading the news online, get up and go find someone to discuss what they have read.

 I don’t agree with the isolationist factor very much at all because there are so many opportunities for communication both for beginning and maintaining contact with others.  My family (and here I am including cousins, aunts, friends and friends of friends who live many miles apart) and I keep up with each other through MySpace, IM, and email.  We usually know what is going on everyday or at least every week.  Since all of our lives are so busy, I think it’s pretty great that we are able to do this. Sometimes we share web sites and info that we have learned via the web.  We don’t have time to sit down and write letters or, for that matter, involve ourselves in a long phone conversation everyday. 

 Furthermore, when I consider all that the Internet has to offer in addition to being able to maintain connections with people, I think it is a much better value than postage stamps and telephone bills.  We all know that driving to see our families and friends who live in far-off exotic places some 50 miles away is a special trip these days because of gas prices.   Maybe having the Internet will pacify some of those problems of not being able to travel as easily as we once did. 

 The Internet has changed our way of life, but I don’t know that we are going to become a culture of people who sit inside our homes with only our online friends for companionship.  I think there will always be folks who want to play sports, watch sports, or involve themselves in other physical activities.  Many people don’t like to read and will find other ways to occupy their time.  Unless something drastic happens, I don’t think anyone is going to force us to spend time any more time online than we decide is right for us.

 

 

Fish tank, planter, litter box… April 27, 2008

Filed under: ethnography - EDUC 628 — remonzer @ 7:36 pm
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I finished reading High Tech Heretic today.  Although, I am not happy with Stoll’s suggestion that “[T]eachers are an unnecessary appendix at …cyberschool.”  and that teachers will be basically be eliminated by electronic classrooms, I am glad that I read this book because it does clearly communicate ideas/problems/issues that should be given consideration as drawbacks that could arise in cyber communication and more directly, in a teaching-learning environment.  Stoll does a good job of pointing out in detail red flags as he sees them and according to specific studies that he cites.  I agree with some of what the book says, mildly disagree with parts, and totally disagree with others.  However, I haven’t taken the time to find sources to back up my point of view so all I have is my opinion.

 One matter that I disagree with is the notion that distance education equals a third-rate education.  I have taken several distance education courses and can’t recall being disappointed with any of them.  One or two met early in the morning when I was barely awake and / or late in the evening when I could barely stay awake, but other than that personal problem, I learned and felt prepared to advance to the next level. 

 Another area of conflict for me is in the proposition that electronic classrooms don’t develop any real sense of community.  I don’t think this idea is valid.  Even if I don’t see my classmates, I still feel like we have a common goal and most of us are working to help each other interpret course material.  The fact is we may be too far from each other in terms of physical distance to help if we lock our keys up in the car on a rainy day, but we can commiserate in our blogs when we write again.  Some of my classmates and I, people whom I have never met in person, regularly IM each other.  We may never have lunch together, go shopping or do any of that stuff, but we may also never do that in a face-to-face class either.   I actually look forward to signing on and reading new comments and postings.  This has become a regular part of my day and something that I look forward to.  When I see familiar names and read about similar struggles and triumphs, I feel that I am part of a community. 

 I sort of agree with his take on software.  It is aggravating to load a program only to find that parts are not working properly and one must ask someone or go online to figure out how to correct the problem.  Sometimes, an enormous amount of time is spent in this job and time is precious.  But, what can one do, except spend the time to figure out the problem, which creates stress often in a time when folks have almost reached their limit anyway.  I don’t even want to discuss crashes.  To this, though, I fall back on the line that nothing is perfect and there will always be some type of problem to overcome.  We have come a long way from DOS. 

 I also get aggravated with the constant upgrades and costs of new computers, software, and user fees.  Granted, computers have gone down a bunch in price, but it is hard to keep up with new processors and the latest technology.  F’rinstance, right now, I am trying to figure out Blu-ray and whether I need it or how long it is going to be before I need it.  Also, how much is that going to cost?

 His idea that we have too many bells and whistles on everything is near to my heart.  To quote Stoll, “I am particularly incensed at the clutter of unnecessary features added to common household appliances.”  Every time I buy a new appliance, I try to find the machine that is most energy efficient and does the work for which it is designed with a minimum of gadgets so that I can 1) easily operate it and 2) spend a minimum amount of money.  Eliminating all the extras is another time-consuming task. 

 Admittedly, there are features of my computer that I have yet to fully explore and I am afraid they will be obsolete before I do have the time to play with them!

 There’s more that I could say about High Tech Heretic and will in a day or two, but for now I am going to go and contemplate what I can do with my old computer.  A fish tank is a good idea.  I’m leaning more toward a planter, though.  Or, I do have four cats and only one litter box…

 

Last of the Index of CR20 plus ¡Pod for Educators April 25, 2008

Filed under: ethnography - EDUC 628 — remonzer @ 11:50 pm
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I am coming to the end of the indexing of CR20 and will soon get down to the nitty gritty of the final project for EDUC 628.  This week, I visited FAQ, Photos, Videos, and Invite. 

 FAQ is just what it sounds like – a sort of quick stop for the most important information.  Headings include Hosts or Greeters, Introduction to Web 2.0 in Education, Guide to Standardized Tagging for Forum Posts, Good Links, FAQ, and How to Start.  This page also comes with a search bar.

 Like MySpace, Facebook, and other SNS, members have a special page dedicated entirely to photos.  This page includes links to pages labeled My Photos, All Albums, My Albums, and My Favorites.  Photos are a nice way to share your life or parts of it with other people.   Videos of important events are nice to share, too, which is probably the reason for this tab on CR20.  Again, special links to My Videos and My Favorites are on this page.

 Last, but not least, is the Invite tab.  Here, one enters the email address of someone he or she wishes to invite to join CR20.  Addresses may be imported from web address books like yahoo or web address book applications like Microsoft Outlook.

 I also joined another ning, this week – ¡Pod Educators and its mantra is: Educational podcasters reaching the ¡Pod generation.  Lately, I have developed a keen interest in creating podcasts and using them to teach my students.  Anyone else interested in the same idea would very likely find this ning motivating and useful because members have such a wide range of skills from beginners and beyond.  This evening, I have been following a discussion about transforming PowerPoint presentations into screencasts using Camtasia Studio.  The project started in audacity.  I don’t have access to Camtasia, but would like to try this venture someday. 

 

Stolling along April 23, 2008

Filed under: EDUC 628 — remonzer @ 10:45 pm
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I am officially over halfway through reading Stoll’s High Tech Heretic and will likely finish reading it before the end of the week.  But, after I read an op-ed article entitled Clueless in America in yesterday’s New York Times, I thought this would be a good time to  stop and share a few of my thoughts.  Some points from the article include the fact that a kid drops out of high school every 26 seconds in this country and none of the political candidates seem to be addressing the situation.  Quotes from the article:

From Allan Golston, the president of U.S. programs for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, “In math and science, for example, our fourth graders are among the top students globally. By roughly eighth grade, they’re in the middle of the pack. And by the 12th grade, U.S. students are scoring generally near the bottom of all industrialized countries.”

Many students get a first-rate education in the public schools, but they represent too small a fraction of the whole.

Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, offered a brutal critique of the nation’s high schools a few years ago, describing them as “obsolete” and saying, “When I compare our high schools with what I see when I’m traveling abroad, I am terrified for our work force of tomorrow.”

Said Mr. Gates: “By obsolete, I don’t just mean that they are broken, flawed or underfunded, though a case could be made for every one of those points. By obsolete, I mean our high schools – even when they’re working as designed – cannot teach all our students what they need to know today.”

Some matters that I read about in this article came as a big surprise.

On to Stoll:  First off, I agree with some of what Stoll is saying in the chapter referred to as Calculating Against Computers.  A little disclaimer first:  I am not a math teacher and I am also not exactly a math whiz.  I did manage to earn an Associate of Science degree without computers.  In fact, graphing calculators were the only type of “machine” that we were allowed to use.  My students would say that I am “old school” and I don’t mind that because I am.  I think that students should be taught to work algebraic equations out by hand and that their problem solving attempts should be a part of the test.  By the way, I think a test for math should be of the paper and pencil variety. 

 Admittedly, it has been a few days since I participated in a math class.  But, I do know that our school recently abandoned a software program called Accelerated Math because it was not helping most of the students learn high school math.  The main problem seems to be that students in a classroom were left to their own devices to work math problems at their own level.  Most of the math classes had 30+ students and I can understand how the concept of AM might appeal to teachers, but it didn’t work for us.  Basically, it worked like this:  Each math class had a library of 140 objectives; usually the teacher selected five for a student to work on a time.  Using printed worksheets and scantron sheets, students worked on exercises and practices until they were ready to take a test.  Being ready required a student to achieve 80% of an objective and to then to be able to move on, 80% must be achieved on the test over the objective. The practices contained a review problem from previous objectives.  This is where our students got tangled.    For the majority of our students, the review question was difficult because the ability to work the problems had not gone into long term memory.  Most had learned enough to pass the test for the day.  We have since gone back to math classes where the teacher uses textbook, chalkboard, and chalk in a way much similar to what Stoll seems to be advocating.  Our students are doing better in math. 

 Accelerated Math is not a bad program, but it should not be the sole method of instruction.  There are other programs that we use in our school such as A+LS software, which are good for practice and enrichment, but I think there should be a balance between a teacher-delivered instruction and software when teaching math.

 Balance is another gauntlet taken up by Stoll.  I don’t quite agree with his contention that, “…it’s possible to do perfectly well without any computers or high-tech teaching devices.”  Yes, it is possible to teach a child the things he or she needs to know without a computer, but computers are used in all levels of education now and students need to know how to manage class work in this setting.  High Tech Heretic is around ten years old, though, and I imagine computers are used even more now than when the book was written.

 Another point that I agree with is that real live science lab experiments are probably better for learning than computer simulations.  It could be because that is the way that I learned these subjects.  Once more, we could strive for balance.  Simulations might be used for an advance organizer and to stimulate interest.   When the kids get to the real lab, they might know more of what to expect.  Or, in cases of cash-strapped school systems, a simulation might be better than no class at all.

 Yet another quote from the book that caught my attention was from Paul Roberts who writes multimedia essays, “The irony of the information revolution is that consumers neither like nor expect long, densely written texts on their computer screens.  Long texts addle the eyes …”  Stoll is lamenting the fact that the art of storytelling is lost using multimedia and he mentions all the fancy graphics, video, colors, and animation that are thrown into the story.  I don’t think books will go away, but it is hard to read a book online.  In fact, I think this blog has run too long and I am going to close it now because I personally have trouble reading long blogs.  Many of the blogs in my reader I find interesting, but I just don’t have time to read them all and my eyes can’t stand the strain of reading very many long blogs at one time so often I opt for a few short ones.   But, I do see his point that storytelling should not be lost.

  Maybe there are some things that we can learn from Stoll to get our kids back on track and reduce our shameful dropout rate.  I will have more to say in a day or two.  (Shorter next time.)

 

 

CR20 Resources Wiki

Filed under: ethnography - EDUC 628 — remonzer @ 1:50 pm
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 Got a little downtime here today at school as the majority of the population is in downtown Inez trying to get a glimpse of Senator John McCain.  Yep, that’s right.  For some reason he is visiting Inez, pop. 600. 

 Anyway, I thought that I would take advantage of the time and blog about my recent visit to the Resources Wiki on Classroom 2.0, which will heretofore be known as CR20 in all future posts.  As I have come to expect from my new favorite SNS, the wiki has all kinds of neat stuff such as notices of upcoming workshops.  It appears the first CR20 live workshop was held in San Francisco, California in February of 2008.  I like the fact that producers of the workshops try to always have a track for beginners. 

 As an aside, there is something else that I have discovered that I really like about CR20 and that is the diversity of its members.  Honestly, in the beginning, I thought that this would be a place where I would be behind the other members. But, after lurking around for a bit, I have found that there are many beginners just like me who are interested in collaborating with other educators finding their way in this new wonderland called 2.0.  Of course, as usual, there are always those who are ahead of others and some of them are way, way ahead.  But, that is okay, they are blazing ground.

 Back to the Resources Wiki.  There is a live workshop coming up on May 8 and 9 from Phoenix, Arizona, which will include discussions about Introduction to Web 2.0, blogs, RSS, streaming video, wiki use, lightning speed demos, and social networking.  Other workshops are planned through September.  One must register for these events in order to attend.

 The Resources Wiki also provides a link to the following: 

Classroom 2.0 LIVE Conversations are community-scheduled opportunities to talk on specific topics with other members of the Classroom 2.0 using one of the online voice/video/sharing programs. 

One may host these events as well as attend.  A schedule of approaching events may also be found on the wiki.

 

Finally, members of CR20 are encouraged to edit the wiki as deemed necessary for the betterment of all educators who are interested in helping “[E]ach other integrate and use technology in the classroom in practical ways”.  There is even a “notify me” tab at the top of the pages to receive notification of any (one may select the pages for notification) or all changes made to wiki pages. 

 

            Onto FAQ, Photos, Video, and Invite tabs next. 

 

The Adventure continues April 20, 2008

Filed under: ethnography - EDUC 628 — remonzer @ 9:47 pm
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Update on Classroom 2.0 or, more familiarly, CR20. Today, I added a blog to my home page, which was kind of cool because I knew how to create one and did not experience any of the anxiety that I had when creating the first one nearly eight months ago.

Additionally, I checked out the Forum. This is an interesting place to visit because you can start a discussion on any subject that your heart desires or join countless others already in progress. Specific headings include:

  • Book Discussions,
  • Conferences and Workshops
  • First Time Postings
  • Help or Feedback Needed
  • News or Noteworthy
  • Off-Topic or Just for Fun
  • Philosophy / Pedagogy
  • Reviews of Software Tools and Services
  • Site Announcements
  • Site Features Discussion
  • Success Stories
  • Uncategorized.

I found this link about Twitter under the Review of Software Tools and Services heading. It boasts of having 58 Twitter apps in one location. Some of you scanning Twitter for the ethnography might find it useful. I would bet that almost anyone researching anything could find something useful at CR20.

I was going to report on the Resources Wiki, but am running out of steam and need to be fresh to start CATS testing tomorrow. I will try to catch up tomorrow evening.