Remonzer’s Weblog

everything that I am learning in EDUC 628

Blogging is not just for the Boogeyman April 4, 2008

Filed under: EDUC 628 — remonzer @ 9:39 pm

I found this blog about reluctant bloggers at:  http://www.techlearning.com/showArticle.php?articleID=196605109 and think it offers practical answers to fears and concerns about blogging.  According to the article, the top five fears for would-be bloggers are:

  1. Fear that they’ll have to implement whatever they write about.  This fear is addressed with the explanation that blogs are written as a form of personal reflection designed more for the writer’s growth than as a statement of intent.
  2. Fear that they will fail.  Here, the thought is that some people may quit blogging because they either receive too many comments or not enough and that people will think “that they don’t know everything.”  (It’s hard to learn anything new if one already knows everything.)
  3. Fear that they will do something stupid and be ridiculed by peers.  I guess this fear never goes away.  The article reassures us that our blogging community probably has some of the same fears because it is usually made up of our peers.  Also, since there is so much available information, “…we don’t know what we don’t know. It is okay to take some risks and see what your peers think of your comments.”
  4. Fear of change.  Some people, groups, and/or organizations welcome change.  For others, the instinctual reaction to change is to feel damger.  Blogging is not exactly skydiving.  People with a little adventurous spirit could overcome the fear of blogs and use them as instruments to declare their existence and pursue their interests in life.
  5. Fear of taking time away from what you need to do.  This is probably the one that hits me the most.  These days, everything seems to take time and there doesn’t seem to be a way to rearrange anything to have more time.  This is what the article had to say on the matter:

Anything new takes time. Just think of any newly-attempted activity, such as skiing or bike riding.  The first time was scary and you may have crashed. But then you got right back up again and again and again. Each time you took another risk. Or did you stop after the first fall. It can be the same with blogging. Can blogging be a more efficient way of communicating and collaborating? It can take time but be more effective than what you are doing now.

Most of these fears are the same that we feel for anything new that we might consider giving a try.
 

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Thurday Night Babble April 3, 2008

Filed under: EDUC 628 — remonzer @ 9:34 pm

 Some other thoughts occurred to me this week as I pondered the myriad of articles and information contained in http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/2008/03/08/the-cute-cat-theory-talk-at-etech/ and particularly this section:

Kefaya activists were able to use mobile phone messages, some sent through Twitter, to alert activists to the impending arrest of Malek Moustafa. As activist came to the place where Moustafa was being taken into custody, they attracted a huge crowd of police, who effectively blocked the street and prevented the police car with Moustafa from leaving the street. He was eventually released. Corresponding with Alaa about the situation, he raises questions of whether this was really a victory for Twitter – this is something Egyptian activists have done with SMS for a long time. Twitter may simply be useful in confusing Egyptian authorities, who might choose to block local SMS in a crisis, but might not consider blocking an international SMS number.

If people can organize themselves in this fashion using electronic technology, it seems to me that the educational institution is not the only place that is undergoing scary changes these days.

This next statement may sound negative, not to mention paranoid, but lately I have begun to think that eventually a governmental system or some organization that has a lot of money and wants control will increase the cost of telephone service to the point that most people cannot afford to use it and common people will not have the same advantages as those who can pay for first-class service.  If this happens, inevitably schools in poorer districts will feel the impact and will once again find themselves at the end of the pack.   

 

Chapter 11 March 30, 2008

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

Upon finishing chapter 11 of Solomon, I felt a little envious of the educators in New Mexico, New Jersey, and Texas who participated in the model programs.  I realize the experience was probably not all fun and games, but to work collaboratively with colleagues using the newest technology to reform teaching styles and methods is something that holds a lot of interest for me.  Many times, I have wondered who I might ask questions about how they are using Internet technological tools to teach.  In fact, I have tried to devise a plan for teachers in other disciplines to work together with me in an ongoing lesson plan.  Most of the time, we are so busy trying to meet the requirements for NCLB that we have time for little else. 

Reading about the model programs gave me hope for our system.   We have two well-equipped computer labs that teachers in our school could use to collaborate learning and not have to worry so much about having the labs just for one class at a time.  Accomplishing this goal would require quite a bit of careful planning, especially in the beginning.  But, we need to start somewhere. 

Most of our professional development activities do not focus on intergrating technology.  At the moment, we are trying to organize our school into a more efficient operation.  One might say, we are undergoing remodeling.  However, we are making progress in this area.  It is time to to move on, though.  Our teachers’ meetings should be the time to talk about school organization problems and professional development should cover topics that are of interest to and useful for teachers. 

 

A little homeschooling March 27, 2008

Filed under: EDUC 628 — remonzer @ 11:23 pm

 This is a personal comment about homeschooling.  I did not attend a full year of formal schooling until third grade.  My mother taught me at home.  I received some instruction from my dad, but he was the breadwinner and worked away from home.  Neither of my parents were college graduates, but they must have done something right because at the end of my third grade year, I was promoted to the fifth grade. 

Looking back on this time of my life, I do think that I would have benefited from having more frequent interaction with children my own age.  However, I am not sure that my education would have been better.  I just remember wishing that I had more playmates.

Like some of the others have posted, I have seen homeschooling abused, too.  But, I have also seen it work for kids who are having personal problems.  I know of one girl in particular who completed the homeschooling requirements for high school and went straight to college where she is quite successful.  She knew what she wanted to do and is doing it.  Homeschooling allowed her to finish a year earlier than she would have in public high school. 

I’m not sure how we solve the problem of students who do not complete homeschooling programs and end up being dropouts.  Sometimes, they do become a drain on society.   The situation might not have been different had they continued to attend public school. 

 

Why Teach/Cute Cats

Filed under: EDUC 628 — remonzer @ 10:26 pm

Wow!  I feel like I haven’t blogged in a month, which is about how long it took to read the article at this site:  http://durandus.com/phaedrus/2008/03/17/the-cute-cat-theory/.  However, I have a tendency to investigate every link in a blog or article and that takes time, too.  In this case, the time was well spent.  There is so much information in this article.  For me, it is like an “everything you ever wanted to know about Internet technology, but didn’t know you wanted to know” (until you read it) document.   I am convinced now more than ever that I need to learn programming languages.  If we notice that our online content in this country is starting to appear severely compromised or blocked, someone in our crowd should know how to work around those blocks.  This may sound a little paranoid, but this article conjured up thoughts about the monks, priests, and kings in times past who controlled the general population by not allowing them to learn to read and write.  

Or, perhaps, we might want to block content.  This need might occur.  One never knows for sure.  We might become part of a post-apocalyptic group trying to survive.  Okay, maybe I have gone too far.  The point is that programming knowledge and the ability to use ALL the Internet tools would be extremely useful.  The ability to share information encrypted and non-encrypted would help us advance our agendas.

But, back to the question of “Why Teach?”  The article that is the subject of this blog seems to indicate that when people are stirred by a personal reason to learn how to do something, they will learn to do it.  Much unintended learning takes place when we are trying to achieve a specific learning goal.  That is a good consequence of the efforts made by the teacher who has created the assignment and the learner who is making the effort to comply with the lesson’s requirements.   We are accustomed to having a teacher point the way to get us started.   

On the subject of pointing the way, these articles, http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/2006/05/30/my-talk/ and http://www.lunchoverip.com/2007/04/dont_speak_poin.html provide examples  of new ways of learning and maybe even teaching in the 21st century.  It is difficult to summarize the content, but generally stated, the main idea is that with Web 2.0 and Internet technology world events are reported directly to everyone who has a connection.  We don’t have to wait for a television or written report.  Also, we have the ability to organize and take a stand whenever necessary.  All of the connections are there to point us in the right direction.

Another thought that I had about teaching is that most of the teachers that I know love to learn.  Perhaps we try to teach because we think that deep down everyone loves to learn.  How could you not?  Acknowledging the fact that all students don’t share my enthusiasm for learning was not easy.  Still, I try to generate enthusiasm and sometimes I am successful.  Those are the moments that I know why I teach.  Maybe it is because at that moment I am learning something that worked with my students.  Interestingly, though, many of those moments are completely unplanned. 

Moreover, I think teaching is necessary because we need to have an organized system of education.  Thought control (Thank you, Pink Floyd.) should be avoided, but rather children should be taught to think.  The beauty of being a 21st century learner is that thought control by any institution is difficult because information is available from every perspective and the learner must learn to think, discern, and make choices.  

 

Papert and Teachers March 16, 2008

Filed under: EDUC 628 — remonzer @ 11:22 pm

Just a word now on Papert’s chapter 4 Teachers.  Admittedly, I don’t have an enormous amount of teaching experience, but I do feel qualified enough to say that I sometimes think teachers are like foot soldiers in the educational establishment.  “Foot soldiers” makes it sound like we are involved in a war, but that is not exactly the meaning that I wish to convey.  My ideas run more along the lines of saying that teachers are at the front of the battle lines – once again, it is not exactly a war – in trying to implement the latest trends in teaching and in trying to cooperate with the administrators by appeasing their wishes for instruction to be carried out a certain way.  Papert does mention the fact that most administrators were once teachers and have an idea of what we are going through. Sometimes I wonder if they have forgotten what is like to deal with 100-150 different personalities on a daily basis and try to teach to these growing individuals who are not robots, but real, live, walking and breathing human beings who have others issues and problems to deal with that cause education to be a little less than close to the top of their to-do list for the day.

If the learning doesn’t happen, teachers catch flak from parents and administrators.  There are some parents who participate in their children’s education and team up with the teacher to help the student.  Too much of the time, student accountability does not take a major role in the educational process.  But, the fact is teachers and parents can’t do all of the work.  Teachers definitely should not be held accountable for every piece of the learning equation.  The fact that the latter seems to be the case (and that for the amount of education required of teachers, the pay is low) is the reason that many people do not choose teaching careers.   

As a teacher, some of my thoughts about teaching reform mentioned in this chapter involve the community at large who think that teachers are supposed to know everything.  I am not uptight about surrendering some of the control in my classroom.  In fact, as a non-traditional student, I have had enough experiences with students younger than myself to know that we all bring something useful to the table and it’s much better if we share than try to be a bully and horde everything.  But, I think that some parents and others in the public may not have a proper respect for teachers or the methodology.  That is, until a generation passes through such a system and the benefits are understood. 

Also, unless administrators are well versed in this learning situation, teachers may have to stand strong against the winds blowing from that direction.

 In conclusion, the revamping of an educational system in the direction that computers are leading is untried and unproven ground.  Papert indicates that teachers who are ready for this change should be supported.  But, (and I really don’t like to sound so pessimistic) I think that teachers will remain the foot soldiers on the front lines.  The good news is that those of us who are ready and willing to try to make the change have interesting work up ahead.                                             

 

A Little Bit on Papert

Filed under: EDUC 628 — remonzer @ 10:11 pm

I have 51 pages to go in Papert and I am going to read it before tomorrow, but I want to stop and blog before another day passes without writing.  I had good intentions today (yes, I do know where that road leads), but got sidetracked by so many conversations.  One of the most interesting and important to us was the rise of tuition in Kentucky’s public universities.  The cost is exploding and we were wondering whether learning online would be a solution to that problem.  With the cost of fuel and transportation, it looks like something could be worked out with online education to offer some relief for this problem.  I’m not sure how it would work, though, because online classes currently cost a little more than those taught in a traditional classroom.  If students had their own computers to use at home or a central location where computers could be used in a public setting, I can see this as maybe a viable option.  Does anyone have any ideas on this matter?  Suggestions?  It looks like it is time to start a brand new way of thinking and learning.

Moving on to Papert now.  I am just going to start here in the middle and say that his ideas on concrete thinking make sense to me – that is, if I truly have a grasp on the concept.  I trust that my classmates and perhaps Dr. Lowell will set me aright if I am getting off the path.   In the chapter Instructionism versus Constructionism, Papert writes about concrete and abstract thinking, and the idea that we should not separate the two by very many degrees because the concrete is absolutely necessary for increasing understanding.  I know from personal experience that when I am trying to learn something new, often I have to relate the concepts’ various parts back to something that I previously learned and build an understanding from there.

In our teacher-education programs, we are taught to lead the students to higher order thinking and it is a good goal, but as Papert writes, we need to be careful when we employ this practice.  Papert writes:

The supervaluation of the abstract blocks progress in education in mutually reinforcing ways in practice and in theory.  In the practice of education the emphasis on abstract-formal knowledge is a direct impediment to learning-and since some children, for reasons related to personality, culture, gender, and politics, are harmed more than others, it is also a source of discrimination if not downright oppression.

These are strong words, but I think that he is saying something like we need to try to touch upon each student’s strengths and weaknesses and not focus as quickly on a system of learning that requires students to learn in an environment that does not involve physical senses other than deep thinking.  Some students may not be ready for purely abstract thinking at the same time as others or what they are doing has not reached the point that abstract thinking is part of the learning experience.  Also, how does one define abstract?  In my Spanish-learning classroom, abstract for one student may be the completion of a paragraph written entirely in a foreign language.  The knowledge required for that type of activity involved thinking about two different languages and how to express thoughts in a non-native language.  For others, the ability to hold a debate in the target language may be an abstract experience.  Deep thinking is still going on, but for the most part they are also concrete experiences because a concrete product is created in the form of speech or a written paragraph.