Remonzer’s Weblog

everything that I am learning in EDUC 628

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.)

 

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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.

 

“News” from Classroom 2.0

Filed under: ethnography - EDUC 628 — remonzer @ 3:51 pm
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Okay, as pledged last blog, I have visited the tab labeled News on Classroom 2.0.  The first thing that I noticed when I clicked on News was that the article of the day was Web 2.0 in Education: Thursday November 28, 2007.  So, I began to look around to see if more current material was available.  And, after three tries, I found an April 20, 2008 article entitled Schools need Web 2.0. from the Twin Cities Daily Planet.

As an aside, a section of this article (quoted in part below) is pertinent to our current discussion of relevant professional development for teachers:

 What are some of the implications for our schools?

1) Make information technology an integral and essential part of the education of St. Paul schoolchildren using resources already available. Internet use is an essential part of education, commerce, information access, and community.

2) Evaluate and implement educational changes that help students effectively and efficiently peruse, scan, evaluate, select, digest, retain, retrieve, articulate, and apply information on the Web.

3) Provide in-school training for teachers and students. Be open to using students as mentors to teachers for some of the tools, while teachers mentor students on how make use of those tools as effective learning instruments. Find collaborative ways for faculty, administrators, and students to learn new tools.

4) Provide after-school Internet access to students and parents-making maximum use of already existing resources. According to the 2006 Minnesota Internet Study, released in April 2007 by the Center for Rural Policy and Development, more than 30% of our metropolitan population is being left out. 29% of the people in our metro area do not own a computer, and 33% lack Internet connectivity.

I clicked on more links on News and most of them led to other places on the ning that can be accessed from other directions, as well.  After viewing this heading –

Got News?

Want to let us know some news about Web 2.0 and collaborative technologies in the classroom? Send an email to news@classroom20.com.  – I have come to believe that members of Classroom 2.0 are in charge of keeping News up-to-date and if no one has anything fresh to post, it remains in an in-progress state.

 

 

…the final project …Classroom 2.0 Groups… April 13, 2008

Filed under: ethnography - EDUC 628 — remonzer @ 12:54 pm
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I have decided that the best way to tackle the final project is to investigate one feature of Classroom 2.0 at a time. This week I have been working on the Groups feature of which there are tons. The one that I am trying to navigate today is referred to as Project “Developing Digital Skills @ School” and the focus is on ICT. Teachers & students learn how to deal with the computer. DigiSkills teachers design, share, compare and enhance teaching methods and materials.

I feel like a kid with a new toy because there are so many people to communicate with about so many topics related to online education all over the world. Currently, I am trying to narrow the list down to high school teachers who teach English, Spanish or other languages , and ESL.

The possibility to attend meetings with live webcasting is available in this SNS as well as numerous discussions in chat rooms, wikis, blogs…. One can search for help with tools simply by clicking on a link denoting the tool of interest. These links may lead to virtual classrooms, helpful posts or discussions. Virtual classrooms are open for all members to attend or create courses. In fact, a teacher can create a Ning Network for their own class.

One of the discussions going on today made me think of using something like this with CATS testing. Introduction to the discussion begins this way, “I recently began to create video review podcasts using Camtasia Studio to assist my students to review for standardized tests. The success was amazing as the students were eagerly “plugging in” to study by using their ipods.” Most educators are stretching themselves to the limit in Kentucky right now trying to prepare for CATS testing. Primarily, our focus is on teaching multiple choice test taking strategies and answering open response items. I don’t know of any teachers using podcasts right now to prepare students.

Another teacher is looking for someone to collaborate with on a VoiceThread and made this post, “Is anyone interested in doing some type of collaborative voicethread project with students at our school? I would like the project to be very simple for starters – one that doesn’t require a whole lot of background knowlege building.

I started a voicethread project about “Your favorite tree.” The idea is to have students take a picture of their favorite tree and then write a little reflection that will be used as narration. Let me know if you might be interested in this or if you want to work on some other type of simple project in voicethread.”

Another person is trying to create a discussion with the following lead, “Using Web 2.0 tools in the classroom is very important. Which one do you use most and what can you recommend to the group?” We, students in Nate’s class, are old experts with Web 2.0 tools and could probably add a lot to this discussion ;).

I am going to join at least three groups before I start writing the ethnography. But, it is going to be hard to narrow them down.