Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Facebook for Education

Facebook (fb) was created for social networking and unfortunately is often known more for its negative connotations than it is for the good things that can come from it. There is also a huge debate over whether employers should be allowed to view the profiles of job applicants and current employees. I will not discuss the ethics of this discussion here, as this is about the good things facebook CAN be used for. As a future teacher, I see the potential uses for fb. It can help me increase my involvement as a member of the educational online community (defined below) as well as communicate with students and their parents.

Educational Online Community
Teaching is said to be a lonely job. Sure, you’re surrounded by students but you’re on your own when it comes to brainstorming, writing lesson plans, etc.; any collaboration with coworkers is limited to what can be said in the teacher’s lounge during lunch. This is why the internet has become a useful tool for many teachers. They can share ideas, lesson plans, activities, classroom management strategies, etc. They can do this through websites, twitter, blogs, and, of course, facebook.

Resume Extension
Use your profile to highlight the positive aspects of you, your life, and your abilities that a resume cannot cover. If you do not want to modify your personal profile, create a separate one for professional use so that you can really highlight the aspects of your life that you want students, parents, and employers to see. Then, link this one with your work email address, blog sites, twitter, etc. Facebook itself has just recently changed their layout to be more geared towards showing off your degree(s), employment, etc. and, in a way, resembles a resume.

“friending” students
Being fb friends with your students could give you insight into their interests and abilities outside of school that you could use to facilitate their learning of school subjects. It also allows your students to get a glimpse into your own personal life and perhaps see you as a human being just like them. This could improve the teacher-student relationships which is essential for a positive learning experience.

Communicating with Parents
You can use the email message system or your own status to put out additional reminders for things such as…
• field trips
• test days
• student count days
• assemblies
• carnivals
• fund raisers
• conferences
• open houses
(Some of these would definitely be in addition to flyers sent home.)
This type of thing can help build excitement and involvement in their children’s lives. You can also share that day or week’s activities so parents can know what to ask their kids about. This might initiate a more substantial conversation than the typical “How was your day,” “Good.”

Posting Resources
Post links to great online resources that students can use to learn more about a subject, get extra practice, etc. If it is geared towards parents, you could post ideas on what they can do at home with their child to help them out using the Notes application. You could post instructions for at- home projects or assignments. Some of these would be easier, and perhaps more appropriate, to do on a class wiki or website, which could also be linked to fb.

-show off student accomplishments
-share photos from field trips and assemblies

Possible Assignments
Buildings Roman Photo Assignment
Students could create a photo album showing a trip or experience that they had that helped them grow. They can use the photo description and comment boxes to describe the meaning of the photo and how it added to their development.

Art Appreciation
Post several photos in a specified album and assign your students the task of studying it. This can focus on the five senses and imagining what it would be like to be inside the picture. They could write a poem and post it as a comment on the photo. They could research the background of the photo or painting and talk about what went in to making it.

Utilize the Notes application similar to a blog. Post a topic and information and have students comment on it.

Encouraging Citizens
This would follow a class discussion on the importance of encouraging others. Students could post encouraging statements, notes of thanks for things that a person has done, or talk about characteristics he/she appreciates about that person. This activity may sound corny and childish, but one of my teachers did something similar when I was 16 and we loved it. I still have the little notes my classmates wrote to me.

-facebook changes layout and features quite often

-This assumes that students and parents have regular dependable access to the internet which is not always the case. It also assumes that they have fb profiles and are willing to “friend” a teacher. It is not good to make assumptions, for obvious reasons, and you should always do what works for your students and families.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

$ for Technology

Many of my MSU classes have shown how useful technology can be in the classroom especially for students with disabilities. Modern ideas such as using ipods, wikis, texting, blogging, Elluminate, making videos(the list is endless) expand education options. However, a concern that I have and a reminder to my classmates is where the money comes from to pay for all of these things.

It's nice when the school can afford to provide all these things and lend them to the students. However, for most teachers and students, that's merely a dream. What are the other options? As a teacher, you pay for it. Okay, some teachers can afford buying extras such as paper, snacks, fun science experiment supplies, etc., but I don't know any who can afford a classroom set of technological devices for students such as ipads or laptops. So, then that leaves it to the parents to pay for them, and I would not advise telling parents that they need to buy an expensive piece of equipment. This is especially true since you don't know what "expensive" is for a family. Even if you think you know based on the student's performance, clothes, attitude, you could be dead wrong. The last option I know of is writing grant proposals. This could work depending on what you're asking for and if those who you are asking decide that it's worth their money. So, obviously the downside is that they could say, "No," but it's worth trying.

Another point I'd like to make and wonder about is if the school owns the hardware, how do you manage accountability for damages and lost items? Also, don't forget that some students may already be competent in using a certain device whereas others will need much more help and guidance. Of course, this is the case with anything done in school. It's just something to remember.

Of course, as a teacher, you could make sure and that the projects you are assigning use devices which every student already has. Provided, you know for sure that every student has one.

Another option is to stick with internet only assignments, but even with the internet, you cannot assume that every student has access. For instance, let's say you have 25 students. Twenty of them have computers and high-speed internet access at home, great. Three of them have computers and internet access but it is unreliable, slow, and costs their parents $ per minute. The final two do not have computers or internet access. They can go to the public library but they live far away from it and would have to depend on their parents driving them there. Even this assumes that they have a car or transportation access in addition to having the time to make the trip during library hours. I have heard people claim that everybody has internet access and shrug off this issue easily. I think they would be surprised at how much it can actually be a problem. I speak from personal experience when I say that it can add extra stress. I had to worry about my internet access and all the while think about how most of my classmates did not have to stress about it at all. Some even had their own computers in their room! This made me feel the economic differences between me and my classmates more than usual.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Parents have Rights over Children

A response to a blog post by Alison.

I agree that people, including kids, need to be exposed to controversial issues to challenge their thoughts and views. However, I do not feel confident in saying that “no book should be off limits” for kids. This is too encompassing and there are always exceptions. I also think that parents should have the right to control what their own children are exposed to. Obviously they will not really be able to do this forever because kids grow up into adults, which leads me to my next point. I think that younger children are much more susceptible to believing whatever people tell them compared to when they are older. I admit I am no expert in this area and do not have any evidence. In the end, I think parents should have the right to make whatever law abiding rule they wish for their children.

PERSONALLY: My parents limited quite a bit of my literature and movies compared to most parents. The typical horror, gore, and sex content were forbidden but also witchcraft and magic. I was not allowed to read or watch Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, Goosebumps, and others. There were some that my parents did not prevent us from watching but discouraged such as Matrix, Wizard of Oz, and Star Wars. I am telling you this because as much as my parents censored what I read and saw, I do not feel scarred for life. Although I somewhat disagree with them at this point and have read/seen some of the forbidden texts, I understand their decision and am THANKFUL for it. Listening to their criticisms gave me a unique understanding of the world and developed my own critical mind. This is partly due to my dad discussing specifically what he had issues with and why as opposed to merely making a rule. My house was constantly filled with discussion of religious, political, and social issues. As each of us kids grew older, my parents gave more and more freedom to make our own decisions.

As a parent (not that I am one), it is a scary thing to hand over your precious child to the influence of a stranger (the teacher). You don’t know what the teacher believes and thinks or how much he/she will press their own views on the students. Perhaps the teacher won’t “press” their views but a person’s opinions always bias what they do and say no matter how hard they try. They can subtly influence by the way information is presented. You can’t even guarantee that the information will be true! Perhaps I’ll change my mind once I start teaching, but I do not want to take power away from the parents. A teacher might think that she’s helping the student but the parents (and even the student) could see it has hurting. It is merely a difference in opinion, and the teacher’s should not have any more (perhaps less!) power than the parent’s.

For example, I was helping out in an elementary school after-school program. We were supposed to be doing a lesson on sexism. We were trying to explicitly teach the kids that the concept of women being responsible for the household chores is wrong, or something like that. Two of the girls were Muslim and either did not understand the activity or felt uncomfortable. I sensed that it was the latter. The opinion of the teachers is that treating men and women differently is absolutely and always wrong. They claim to respect other cultures and yet push their own views in the classroom. I just felt so wrong and uncomfortable telling those girls that what they believe and what their parents believe is wrong. Granted, I don’t know for sure what they and their families believe. So, this entire paragraph could be a moot point in this situation but it is still a realistic possible scenario.

My point is to think about the balance between respecting the beliefs and rights of the parent and presenting your own views as “right.”

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


How I feel about it:

I am a supporter of any method or medium from which students can get information. For example, I have heard many talk about comic books and newspapers as lower literature. However this table (Reutzel, et al.)shows the number of new words kids can learn from reading such “trash.” Yes, perhaps Superman isn’t the “classic literature” that Jane Eyre is, but if it gets kids reading then who cares? I feel the same way towards the digital text form. If it works in getting people to read, then use it. Isn’t that what we want?

Why do we want students to read in the first place? Our goal is to help them become productive citizens in the community of the world. To do that, they need to be able to read to some extent in order to function and they need to be able to obtain information. There are multiple ways of obtaining information such as listening, conventional reading, reading Braille, looking at pictures, and watching sign language. It shouldn’t matter which way is used. At the same time I would not refer to all of those as “reading.” I, personally, find this confusing because it does not fit my own schema of what reading is which is something I can change. However, I find it unnecessary to refer to all of them as reading in order to make them equal. People who can listen to a book and cannot read it still CAN’T read even though they can listen. Therefore they are different. Distinguishing the two and keeping them separate does not automatically make one inferior or superior than the other. They are just different.

Looking to the Future:

Digital text lines up with the movement towards being eco-friendly. As a student, I love saving money by not having to buy books or print everything out. After all, ink is the most expensive liquid on the planet, supposedly. These are just a few reasons why digital texts are becoming so popular and will potentially replace hard copies.

I think printed materials will still be widely used for another generation or two as the older generations adjust to technology and/or die out. I’m not even referring to the elderly exclusively. I am in my twenties and I still prefer buying printed novels over reading them on a kindle. However, I would rather read my academic articles on the computer. That is simply my level of adjustment at this point in my life. A few of my friends have a kindle and even read them at the beach. Others of my friends refuse to buy one. In the end, I see the possibility for a certain amount of printed materials always being needed. At the same time, I definitely see them dying out just as much as vinyl records are antiques.