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Teacher Training and Support December 20, 2007

Posted by ashleyquark in Training.
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In recent years, school boards have been urging teachers to integrate technology into the teaching and learning process.  However, there are still many teachers who have limited technologocial skills which means they don’t feel comfortable implementing it into their classrooms. I can understand this.  Teachers have very busy lives between their jobs, extra-curricular activities, families, etc, etc, etc. Taking an hour to sit in front of a computer a few times a week does not seem feasible to many teachers.  And even if they have the time, many teachers (I’ve been one of them) say, “I don’t know what I’m looking for.”

However, if we want to meet student needs, teacher training and support needs to be a priority for school boards.  From my experience working on the Digital Internship Project (a project where pre-service teachers volunteer to focus on the integration of technology in their classrooms in their internship), I’ve been tossing some ideas around in my head.  One method that I think could be extremely effective is to model the process we have taken with the Digital Internship Project with practicing teachers.  This is how it could work.  Teachers volunteer to become “Digital Teachers” for a semester.  They are each given a laptop and are invited to attend 4 one day workshops throughout the semester.  At these workshops teachers would be introduced to various Web 2.0 applications such as blogging, wikis, podcasting, digital video editing, and so on. Then they could go back to their classrooms and try some of the stuff out.  The teachers could also be part of a social network like the Digital Internship Project social network to share ideas and troubleshoot between workshop.  If the teachers approached this project with half the enthusiasm as we saw in the intern teachers, great things would happen in classrooms! And then, of course, these teachers would become leaders in their own schools!

Another model was one I heard about from a cooperating teacher who attended the Digital Internship Project. This teacher teaches in the classrom 60% of the time and then the other 40% of the time, she is a teacher-mentor for the staff in her school.  Her colleagues invite her to their classrooms so she can help them learn how to integrate technology into their classroom and she can offer support when the students are there.  The great thing about this model is that the technology mentor is a member of specific school community.  They can ask her questions as they pass her in the hall or have lunch with her in the staff room.  Teachers do not have to play email-tag with someone at the other end of the city to get support. I love this model as well. A combination of these two ideas might work well too!

I’d love to hear other people’s ideas as well as what’s going on at their schools! 

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Schools Killing Creativity? December 8, 2007

Posted by ashleyquark in English Language Arts.
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Yesterday, I came across a TED Talk video delivered by Sir Ken Robinson where he challenges our current education system, proposing that we are killing students’ creativity. This video is about 20 minutes in length but is very funny. He offers an interesting perspective of our current education system.

One of his points is that schools systems are focused around what we call “academics.” Math, Science, Language Arts and Social studies are percieved as the “core” subjects and then other subjects like visual art, music, drama, physical education are tacked on as extras, but are not seen as being essential to students’ education. The way I see this model continuing is because the decision-makers in the eduation system are the people who succeeded within the present system and therefore it is in their best interest to allow this system to continue. It privileges the privledged and marginalizes Others.

Furthermore, in continuing this model of education and by privileging these “core” subjects, Robinson points out that we are sucking the creativity out of students. The world is changing so quickly that the world that we are preparing our students for is completely unknown to us. We have no idea what the world will look like in 20 years, and yet we are trying to prepare students to be citizens of that world. We are preparing students to do jobs that don’t even exist right now! I think that we are doing an injustice for students unless we are teaching them critical and creative thinking skills. Students need to think for themselves and be problem solvers. The only way that we can do this is by fostering creativity in children from a very young age.

Blogging: 21classes.com December 6, 2007

Posted by ashleyquark in Tech Tools.
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A huge barrier that I have seen among teachers trying to start their classes blogging is gathering and then entering student email addresses.  For example, when I taught grade 8 language arts at the American Schools of Kuwait, I had about 120 students blogging using Blogger.com.  In order to have them join my blog, I had to gather all 120 students email addresses, type them all into Blogger, and then invite all my students to join.  This was a pain. At least I had my students blogging all year so the work I did at the beginning of the year paid off. However, one of my friends recently told me about a site that does not require teachers to know students’ email addresses for them to join the blog, but the teacher can still make the blog a closed community.  This site is www.21classes.com. It is possible that Class Blogmeister or others allow teachers to do this as well, but my friend, Brenda, who is using this site with her high school students found it to be very easy to set up. Check it out.

Cyberbullying Ads December 4, 2007

Posted by ashleyquark in cyberbullying.
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The following ads have recently been put out by the Ad Council in an attempt to prevent cyberbullying and give children and adolescents a different view on what they are doing when they insult someone online. These ads are definitely attention-grabbers and they may make some students think twice about what they are doing when they cyberbullying.  It seems that through these types of ads, advistisers are trying to teach students empathy as a means to prevent cyberbullying.  However, in the research I have done for my master’s thesis, I have come to see that such interventions are circumventing the root of the problem.  Participants in my study were cyberbullied through the use of social markers such as race, gender, and sexual orientation.  To me, this indicates that teaching students empathy is not enough.  Discussions need to be taking place in classrooms about systems of power and privilege.  As an educator, I realize that this seems like a daunting task.  It is not a “quick fix” by any stretch of the imagination.  But I think if teacher education programs, school administrators, teachers, and counselors start viewing bullying, cyberbullying, and other types of violence from this perspective, we may be able to begin to address the inequities in our world from which such violence stems.

Check out the videos and see what you think.

Technology in English Language Arts December 4, 2007

Posted by ashleyquark in English Language Arts.
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This is a presentation that I gave at the Saskatchewan Teachers of English Language Arts conference in March 2007.  This powerpoint presentations outlines various ways that teachers can integrate technology into the secondary English Language Arts classroom. Click on the links within the presentation to visit the examples.

Create Screencasts with the Jing Project December 4, 2007

Posted by ashleyquark in Tech Tools.
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This is an exciting new program online that allows people to capture images or video on your screen and add a voiceover through simply speaking into your microphone.  This is useful in the K-12 classroom because it could allow you to quickly give instructions to students.  Watch this Jing video (which took approximately 5 minutes to create) to find out more:
Watch Jing Project video now!

jing-video-image.JPG

Flixn.com: Making video fast and easy! December 4, 2007

Posted by ashleyquark in Tech Tools.
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Check out this video tool at www.flixn.com.  Here is a demonstration where I explain how it could be used in the classroom.  Click here to see my flixn video.  As well, here is an example of a grade 1/2 class’s flixn video on Thankfulness.

The Word on Wikis December 4, 2007

Posted by ashleyquark in Tech Tools.
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I gave a presentation on Wikis to a group of pre-service teachers placed in K-12 classrooms.  My favorite wiki site is www.wikispaces.com because they are currently giving out free ad-free wikis for K-12 classrooms.

In the presentation below, I provide links to some great examples of how wikis are being used in classrooms–from grade 1 classrooms to high school physics classrooms.  Enjoy!

Blogging Tools December 4, 2007

Posted by ashleyquark in Tech Tools.
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Blogging can be a very useful tool in the classroom and has a wide array of uses.  It could be used as a classroom website to post daily homework or document daily classroom happenings. As well, blogging is an easy way for students to take an active role as producers and consumers of media online. Here are some of the most popular blogging sites used in schools:

Class Blogmeister – Check out Mrs. Cassidy’s Blogmeister site as an examples.  Her grade 1/2 students’ blogs are listed along the right side.
Pros: When you create an account with Class Blogmeister, you get a main classroom blog page as well as individual blog pages for each of your students.  You can adjust the settings so that you can moderate every post your students make which allows teachers to check for appropriate content before the blog post is on the internet for everyone in the world to see!
Cons: You can’t simply create a Class Blogmeister site right now and start browsing the site to figure out all its inner workings.  To create a Class Blogmeister account, you must first email the site creator, David Warlick, and he will send you a School Pass Code. From what I’ve heard, David returns emails very quickly and it might be only a day until your Class Blogmeister page is up and running!

WordPress.com
Pros: As you may have noticed, this site is a blog throught WordPress.com.  There are numerous fun and professional looking designs to choose from. When you set up a WordPress blog, you get 1 blog page you can regularly write posts (see my Musings page) and then you can make several pages with “fixed content” such as this one. This would really work well for a classroom website as the teacher could post the daily homework or activities on the blog page and then have other information such as a Class Profile, School Schedule, or handouts on the other pages for students and parents to refer to.
Cons: Students do not have their own pages attached to the teacher’s wordpress account.  If you want students to have their own blogs, they will have to create their own account and therefore the teacher is not able to moderate their posts.

Blogger
Pros and Cons: From my experience, there isn’t anything particularly good or bad about blogger.  It doesn’t create student pages under the teacher’s account like Class Blogmeister and it doesn’t allow you to have multiple pages like WordPress.  It works fine and I have used it in my classroom to have students blog, but I probably wouldn’t use it again.

EduBlogs
I haven’t use EduBlogs before so I don’t really have any review of this. I’ll try it out soon and let you know.