Sunday, April 24, 2011

I love Stumbling!!!

I just set up a Stumbleupon account this semester after hearing so many of my friends talk about it. They talked about how fun and addicting it is. I'll admit that it is definitely addicting, but I was surprised at how much I have been able to use this for educational purposes. 

The way it works is you check mark a bunch of interests of yours and then click "Stumble." It takes you to sites that are associated with your interests. You can choose to give it a "thumbs up" and it will keep track of that site kind of like a bookmarking site, such as Delicious, would. It's like being zoomed across a city by a cab driver who knows what types of new places that you'd enjoy. I chose a few personal and fun interests but mostly stuck to educational ones just to see if I could use it for that purpose. It worked! It took me to sites that I could potentially use with my students such as Maps of Wars, Her Stories in History, Have Fun with History, and Breathing Earth. As you can tell, I picked a lot of history related interests... should have been a social studies major, haha. And if you've never been to Breathing Earth, I highly recommend it. It's a great tool to show your students and give them some perspective on life. Of course, whenever I come across a great site, I put it in the bookmarking site I use, Diigo.

Response Story Reflection

I made my second technology lesson plan for 8th grade language arts since I will be with 8th grade next year for student teaching and Language Arts is my subject area. 

I think Lan. Arts can be a difficult subject to incorporate technology into because so much of it is writing, grammar, etc. ….unless you count typing on the computer as using technology, which technically it is, but for the purpose of this class I think we usually think of something more advanced than Word. 

Actually, blogging and even microblogging such as twitter and facebook are forms of writing and maybe they can even be supported by the GLCE’s. For this lesson, I chose to use a combination of different online tools: Penzu, Google Docs, and a graphic organizer site called Read Write Think

Now, I almost regret doing my lesson on writing because I did not have enough time to actually write out an example story of high enough quality to post. Although I admit that attempting to write it helped  me write the rubric because I realized that the original page requirements were too long and that the Resolution Map is essentially unnecessary. Experiencing what the students experience while doing assignments is good for keeping the directions and rubric clear and reasonable.

I was disappointed that the graphic organizers I used limits the amount of writing. Being concise is good for some circumstances but not when I’m trying to encourage students to write with a lot of detail!

I was also pleasantly surprised at how much the organizers helped me write my story… and I’m in college! Hopefully my students will find it useful as well.

Peeps R Emotionless Online

This is my first online class and I have really enjoyed it. I love the freedom of choosing what I want to explore and when I’m going to work on it. 

The major downside I have noticed with communicating with people online is that it is much less personable. I don’t know how much this affects other people, but it made a huge difference on me.  When someone is merely words on a page, it is easy for me to be harsher and more critical than I would if I was talking to their face. This is why I really enjoyed listening to my House members’ Highlight Showcases. I’ve read their written words and seen pictures of them all semester, but it wasn’t until I heard their voices that I felt they were humans with feelings. 

I did this with one of my best friends as well. I became very upset with her and was determined to give her a piece of my mind, but she called me on the phone and as soon as I heard her voice I wasn't sure if I could talk to her about it even meekly. I also immediately felt remorse for even being mad at her. 

I am not a very confrontational person and maybe it’s because I struggle with addressing issues when I can hear the emotion in their voice and see it in their eyes. 

I want to conclude that I think the internet is great, but we need to be aware of the negatives it poses. It is easy to say things that you normally wouldn’t when you are anonymous or you don’t have to deal with the consequences. 

What are ways to prevent this?
-Use real pictures of yourself? Some might not feel comfortable with that and want to keep their identity private for good reasons.
-pretend you’re saying it to someone you know?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Historical News

Quick Lesson Plan Idea:
I was watching the news this evening while eating dinner and wondering what the news would have been like hundreds or thousands of years ago. Then, I thought that would be an awesome project for students to do and it could apply to a wide range of ages. It could be an entire class project, smaller group projects, and/or an option on a list of projects students can pick from. Students could pick a time period or just do it on the time period you're currently studying. Then, they would research the daily lives of those living during that time as well as major events of the area. Students could make a video of their 'broadcast.' They could even cover sports of that time! They could try to dress up similar to the way they would at that time or even just create a comic strip of the news instead of doing it live.

Another idea is integrating this into the morning announcements for the entire school especially if they are done by video.

OR, instead of assigning this as a project to students, the teacher could prepare this type of thing as a creative way of presenting history. Yeah, I know it would be a lot of work, but a possibility would be to assign it to students one year and then use their base work to expand upon it and show it to future grades. I had a high school history teacher who presented time periods in a similar way. He created slide shows of scenes from that time and place as well as inserting figures with student faces pasted on the heads. The figures had speech bubbles commenting on events happening at that time.

They could also do it in written form such as a newspaper which could be another option on a list of possible projects to pick from.

Thinking from the students' perspective, I think the key to making this worthwhile and fun is to provide valuable and engaging resources for the students to use for research. And they could try dressing up for it.

You could have them start out with questions. Questions are good to drive the motivation for research and to guide the research as opposed to students feeling like they're looking stuff up but aren't sure what they're looking up.

Question: Do you have the students cover world events in their news as if it's similar to the way we do news now? OR do you have them do it more authentically which means they would only do regional news since various cultures of the world were not in communication especially in any efficient or speedy sort of way.

Now that I think about it, this is probably not that original of an idea but why haven't I seen it done more often?

Something else that could go on the list of optional projects is a digital storyboard about the a time period similar to this lesson plan which involves researching the history surrounding a particular piece of art. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


The biggest downside I have come across with wikis is turning in assignments by posting them on a wiki page. We end up erasing each others’ contributions because people edit at the same time and it only saves the last person who saved it. It’s not like Google Docs where multiple users can edit at the same time. You think you’ve posted your assignment to find out later that you didn’t get the points for it because it ended up erased when someone else saved at the same time as you. It’s highly frustrating but can be easily solved by designating times when each person or group can edit. 

One of my major fears of wikis was that if someone deleted something, even accidentally, it would be gone forever. So, I was relieved to find out that you can simply go to the revision history. That solves that problem!
I have had experience with both PBworks and wikispaces. At first, I chose PBworks because I have never actually created my own wiki using it whereas I have with wikispaces. My main memory of working with PBworks is from a class I took at MSU. I was very confused on the organization and had trouble finding the files and information I needed unless my instructor sent me a direct link. I’m usually pretty good at figuring things out, but I’ll admit that I can be impatient as well. After trying it out, I understand the layout a little bit more but still do not like the way they choose to organize everything. It just looks like one giant mess to my brain. I need something straightforward and simple. So, I switched to wikispaces. 

Actually, I also started out trying to create a wiki which was to attempt to be an ultimate time line resource. I don’t believe that memorizing dates is the way to learn about history, but I realized that time lines really help me see how history connects. So, maybe it could help others as well. Sadly, I ended up dropping this idea for now because I just couldn’t figure out a feasible way to use the current wiki technology available to to the common person to create the vision in my mind. I think I might end up needing the help of a web designer if my idea has a chance of ever coming to fruition.

So, I decided to do a simple alternative and create a wiki which I could use for student teaching next year. Since my CT co-teaches as well as teaching her own classes, the wiki will pull all of her students classes together. Almost everything up there right now is fabricated to show a sampling of what it will look like. It is difficult creating a wiki for classes which I know nothing about as of right now. However, I know I want a page for each class that any of the students are in to help both the teachers and the students keep track of everything. I know I want to include a class list and perhaps contact information that students are willing to share voluntarily to help each other out with homework. I want a calendar for each class to provide a visual of when assignments are due. I’ll also have links to the class syllabus as well as notes if possible, assignment directions and rubrics, and any other information that could benefit students related to each class respectively.
For this type of use, using a wiki instead of a website provides some advantages. Students would be able to edit which is beneficial for adding their own names and contact information and contributing other resources. Perhaps I might end up also using it for turning in projects or sharing in-class work, but it will all depend on what is happening in the school. 

I like how simple wikispaces looks. It has the navigation on the left and tabs at the top. I also like the ease of adding widgets and other media. I do not like the tabs at the top because every time any of my classes have tried to utilize the “discussion” tab, it becomes confusing. I think the main hang-up is that there is a set of tabs for each page as opposed to one discussion forum for the entire site. So, when someone wants to create a discussion they have to specify the page it’s on. I also do not like the fact that I cannot change the alignment of text, at least I have not figured out how to do it if it’s possible. Everything automatically aligns to the left.

Has anyone had good experiences with wikis other than PBworks or wikispaces?

I just want to point out the importance of having a discussion with your students before unleashing onto a class wiki. I think some ground rules need to be laid down about respect and how using the wiki is privilege. If they misuse it, even once, they will be removed from the member list. Otherwise, you could end up with jokesters putting inappropriate words, images, etc. on something endorsed by the school.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Don't Create Frustrating Surveys!

I hate taking personality tests or polls or surveys or anything like that. Actually, it’s more like a love-hate relationships because I enjoy coming up with my answers since they are usually easy questions. It’s like taking a test that you know all the answers to because it’s about you!* The part I don’t like is trying to figure out how MY answers fit into the options that are provided. Sometimes it could make me feel like an outcast when my answer doesn’t fit in or I feel like I'm being untrue to myself by choosing an option that doesn’t truly reflect my response.

The following are tips I have accumulated to avoid causing frustration for the users.

-optional comment box for explanations behind WHY they answered the way they did after each question

-optional general comment box at the end- there’s always something that a user has to say that the creator did not think about whether it’s a question or pointing out a problem with the survey or something else.

-include  a "not applicable" option- Forcing users to choose an option when the question doesn't even apply to them can screw up your data

-include a "neutral" option-Forcing users to lean one way or the other when they really don't care about that particular question can also screw with your results. Or you could just put a comment box after each question as bullet 1 suggests. Then the user has a chance to say, "Hey, I don't care either way." However, I guess some might want the users to be forced to pick a side to discern their "true" feelings or something like that.

-always offer an “other” option and a space to fill in the blank unless it is just completely inappropriate given the question and options.

-provide an estimated time for completion next to the survey link- This is not entirely necessary and sometimes difficult to estimate especially since we all spend different amounts of time completing a task. However, saying it takes 5 minutes verses 30 minutes at least gives the user an idea of whether it’s a short quick and easy thing or something they are going to need to sit down and do when they have a good amount of time free.

-being able to save and come back later or retake it because it stinks when you are filling out a survey and the internet disconnects and you can’t get back into it because it only lets you take it once. Or something comes up and you’ve already done most of it but you have to leave and you don't want to lose your work and start all over again.

*”It’s like taking a test that you know all the answers to because it’s about you.” That’s something to remember as a positive for giving students a beginning of the year assignment about themselves worth points for completion.

Please add other tips to these because I’m sure I did not cover everything.

Hyperlinks on Steroids

There are many times in which I want to insert two links on a word or phrase as opposed to just one, but I haven’t figured out a good way to do this. 

I thought about splitting the word and putting one link on the first half and another link on the second half like this: voicethread, but then most might not even notice that there are two links and become confused when they experience that clicking the word does not lead them to the same place every time. 

It's still confusing even when there are multiple words such as: Digital Native because then it looks like the link on Digital is supposed to explain only the word Digital.

There are also times in which I want to add some explanations to my links like I tried in my post called Digitally Native with Pictures. I wanted to specify that I was specifically referring to the 4th paragraph of the article I referenced, but I wasn't quite sure about how I should format that either.

I also considered doing it this way: voicethread (also try this voicethread), but I feel like this would start making the text as a whole look cluttered.

Which brings me to my second pondering: Is there such a thing as too many hyperlinks? Do they crowd and overwhelm or are they always a good choice? I think there is potential that there could be such a thing as having too many, but on the other hand, some Wikipedia pages glow with blue links to other pages and I don’t ever feel as though that is a hindrance. I actually like it because I know that if I don't understand what something is or want to learn more about it I can just click on it.... but then why do I still feel concerned about using too many links in my own blogs?

I’m also wondering about linking to people when mentioning them in a blog or site. What should you link their name to? Their site? Their blog? Something they have written? I guess it depends on what the options are. Should I ask for permission to link to them or at least notify them? 

Not that I want to create an internet version of the MLA/APA monster (a couple reasons described in Copyrights in Education), but an optional guideline or etiquette could be helpful. On the other hand, perhaps I should just try things out and see how it develops. I think I appreciate the method of informal trial and error as opposed to one person or group sitting down and deciding the right way for everyone.

Any ideas on any of this stuff?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

3 Technologies

I was supposed to focus on one technology but in my exploration for that technology I stumbled across a few interesting ones that I’d like to share.

At first I got really excited about this site because it uses primary sources. Anyone can use the site, but perhaps there are more perks if you have an account. The sources available seemed very limited. They mostly have artifacts from the past 100 years. It seems to be geared towards teachers especially those of late elementary to middle school. Like I said, perhaps it is a totally different experience if you actually have an account. It seems to be able to produce pretty sweet projects if students are focusing on the eras and subjects the site highlights. For example, this is a video created by students: I also wish there was a navigation on the side so I could get back to the other site pages without having to click the back arrow on my browser. 

It’s an online journal which looks quite similar to a real notebook and you can even insert images. If I used this in a classroom, I would incorporate it into their daily or weekly writing time. Students would have the choice of using Penzu or a real notebook but they would have to stick with that media for the whole year. Most of their entries would be private so that the teacher would not even see them. This works very well if the writing time is a free-write. I would have prompts each time but students are not required to stick to the prompt if they feel moved to write about something else such as if they are having a bad day or want to write about something exciting in their life. However, it would be required that they send a certain number of their entries to the teacher for credit, but they get to choose which ones to send. The site facilitates emailing an entry which makes it convenient. Also, they can choose entries to elaborate on for larger writing projects. This shows students that writing can be for themselves and that free writing can help generate ideas which can be used later and revised.

Pandora is an online radio in which you create your own stations based on songs, artists, or genres that you like. For instance, two of my 17 stations include: Classic Rock and Alicia Keys. Pandora plays music similar to the styles you like. You communicate to it by giving a song a "thumbs up" or a "thumbs down." You can also skip over a song if you don't want to listen to it any longer. You have to create an account to use it but you don't have to pay unless you want the upgraded version. The downside of the free version is that you are limited to 40 hours a month and you still have periodic commercials. 

What does this have to do with education? Some teachers play music while students independently work. Some play the radio, but most put in CDs or hook up an ipod with set playlists to control what is being played. Pandora is another option. There is even a setting you can choose that ensures that no "adult content" will be played. Pandora could be used as an indirect way of teaching students about different music genres or important historical singers and groups. For example, you could play music by Astrud Gilberto and give a quick summary of his background in Brazil before they begin working or play a Billie Holiday station and say a few things about her importance to Black history. These would just be quick summaries before they begin working so it doesn't distract from their projects. 

That is another thing- it IS a legitimate argument that playing music during work time is a bad idea because some students find it distracting. This is something you could find out through taking formal or informal surveys of the class about what the conditions they need to work or study.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Google Docs

I have fallen in love with Google Docs! It’s partly the result of my loathing for group work. Google Docs has solved some of the issues such as:

-Cannot physically meet due to distance or scheduling issues. Also, my group knew we had to make a few minor changes to our project but didn’t want to set up a meeting just for 15 minutes of work.So, we used G Docs.
-can work on the project at the SAME TIME as well as communicate with others working on it.

However, everyone has to be on board. I was in a group in which one member, for whatever, reason, shot down my suggestions to use it every time. It was frustrating because I knew that Google Docs would solve our problem of only having one person being able to edit or project at a time. However, I recognize that each of us has our own preferences which need to be respected.

Recently, I have been using Google Docs to work on my resume and link it to my portfolio. It has been a rather surprisingly frustrating experience. At first I tried uploading my existing resume and linking to it in my portfolio. The resume looked great on Google Docs, but when I followed the link, the formatting had changed so that my neat columns of information were slanted across the page as seen below.

I downloaded my resume from Google Docs as a PDF and uploaded it to my portfolio as a down-loadable file but even the PDF had strange little quirks. This time the changes were few and minor enough so that I could go to GD and change a few things to create the desired look in PDF form. I’m glad I could fix it but it’s still annoying that I had to do that. The reformatting seemed random as well. Sometimes it recognized my tabs and sometimes it would ignore the tabs and move my information left or right. I’m hoping that there is something in the settings that can be changed as an easy fix but so far I cannot figure it out. It is also frustrating that Google Docs is not divided into pages. So, when I viewed my resume in PDF form it ended up being 4 pages and had awkward breaks instead of the 2 pages that it was in Microsoft Word.

I figured out that using the URL at the top of my browser keeps the formatting correctly

but then future employers would be viewing my resume in GD which I'm not sure is desirable.

Before, I was using the URL given to me by GD when I clicked “share” and then “publish to web”

which makes a finished product look that I am going for, if only the formatting wasn't messed up.

I ended up just taking the embed code and modifying it so that it looks like this (my resume in my new portfolio)

Survey Form
I have also been playing around with GD’s survey form. I created a simple one just to see how it works and invited a few friends from my PLN to answer the questions. I made the first mistake of not filling it out myself to set the example. I also should have had a question asking for their name but I didn’t realize that it would present the responses in table form without any indication of who wrote it.

Under the tab titled “Form” you can click “Show summary of responses” and it shows the multiple choice answers in a pie graph which, I think, is pretty sweet.

You can also email the form or embed it:

I really like Gabrielle Gauthier’s idea of creating a Google Form for students’ parents to fill out at the beginning of the school year. So, I think I might do something similar in the future. In addition, mid-semester forms could be made to do a quick check-up on the parent-teacher-student relationships.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Growing Pains

I have been having a difficult time lately handling criticism and simply hearing very different opinions than my own as well as hearing my own opinions attacked. I usually consider myself as someone who welcomes opposing views as a way of growing, but sometimes, I’ll admit, there are growing pains, haha. It’s just so much easier to surround myself (both physically and digitally) by people who agree with me and are similar to me. In the end, I honestly DO like KNOWING other views, but I think the process of finding out about them can be difficult. 

One reason for this is that, quite often, those who have interesting views are those who believe very strongly in something. They* are so passionate that they can say things on waves of emotions in addition to their passion blinding themselves sometimes. Well, blinding is not a good word for it…. It’s more like- if you really believe you’re right about something ……. 

(which hopefully you DO think you’re right because if you think you are wrong then why would you think that? …..of course, I guess there’s always that middle ground where you believe one thing but you’re not quite sure so you’re still open and searching) 

…..anyway, if you really believe you’re right about something and you’ve already heard many of the main arguments against it, then you kind of start dismissing those arguments because you already know you disagree with them. The problem with this is 1) there might be more points that you HAVEN’T ever heard and, more importantly, 2) you shut down to those with opposing opinions. Shutting down to others is bad because, you can lose touch with the reasons WHY they still think differently than you. This is a first step in lack of understanding and lack of compassion and ends up in people just yelling at each other and hating each other as opposed to civilly discussing and compromising or at least admitting that there are legit reasons for believing differently. It also leads down the road of seeing people as the enemy and as “other” instead of as human because if you see them as so different from you that you can’t relate to them, then you don’t care about them even as fellow humans….  and that does not lead to good things.

So…. anyway… that’s my quick and confusing rant for today. I’m sure I’ll read it later and be like, “What?”

*I’m not using “they” to imply that this DOESN’T include me, because it definitely does.

Friday, March 25, 2011

“Causing arguments since 2008”

aMap, or argumentative Map, is a site in which users can create a debate with other users in the form of a web or map. You do not create an account; anyone can create a map, but for each time that you create a new map, you must provide a user name, city, postcode, and email address.

If I used this in a classroom, I would start with a quick lesson on how to fill out the aMap form:
- Your position (I think . . .) – what you think overall
- Propositions (Because . . .) – reasons that support your position
- Arguments (As . . .) – supporting arguments that back up each of your propositions
- Evidence (Supported by . . .) – supporting evidence to back up your arguments

It looks like this:

Their example is:
I THINK... "Man U are the best team in the Premiership” (State their position)
BECAUSE... "They’re the most successful on the pitch” (State their proposition/reason)
AS... "They win the most silverware and have the best players” (State supporting argument)
SUPPORTED BY...“In 2008 Man U won the Champions League and Ronaldo won best European Player of the year.” (State supporting evidence)

aMap even offers a powerpoint for teachers:
View more presentations from Delib

Students can also look over examples of already created aMaps.

I would require students to create a minimum of one map and to reply to a minimum of 3 of their classmates' maps. Students would choose their issue in class on a sign-up sheet to ensure that multiple people do not choose the same topic. They would also draft their map either in class or as a homework assignment because it is difficult to edit in the website.

+integrates technology into teaching students how to debate
+lays out a basic format for creating an argument
+their maps can be expanded upon for a formal paper later on
+can follow maps on twitter, facebook, and myspace
-no way to edit your aMap once you've officially shared it so students would have to create and edit their arguments on paper or in a Word document first
-its format is rigid and not very flexible- some arguments and points are more complicated than the 3 tiered argument they offer and others may be simpler.
-text for each box is limited by a set number of characters

This lesson fulfills the following GLCE's for 8th Grade Language Arts
W.PR.08.03 draft focused ideas experimenting with various ways of sequencing information including ordering arguments, or sequencing ideas chronologically by importance when writing compositions.
S.DS.08.01 engage in interactive, extended discourse to socially construct meaning in book clubs, literature circles, partnerships, or other conversation protocols.
S.DS.08.02 respond to multiple text types in order to explore problems and pose solutions supported with evidence, take a stand on an issue and support it, and identify personally with a universal theme.

6-8.CI.3. illustrate a content-related concept using a model, simulation, or concept-mapping software
6-8.CC.1. use digital resources (e.g., discussion groups, blogs, podcasts, videoconferences, Moodle, Blackboard) to collaborate with peers, experts, and other audiences

I used 8th grade GLCE's, but I think this site could be used in any classroom from late elementary through even high school depending on how it's used and the need of the students.

I am still not confident with the form they use especially the "supporting argument: As....."  It's one of those situations in which I get it when I look at their examples but I am unsure what to put when creating my own.

My example:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Disapointed with Sliderocket

I played around with Sliderocket last week. I needed to teach a lesson to my college classmates and my TA wanted us to be creative and not just copy the format of previous groups who had taught. I couldn't really get around having some sort of digital text presentation but I wanted to avoid the overused powerpoint.

Sliderocket was fairly simple to learn how to use since it's quite similar to powerpoint. My favorite feature is the slide transition. I like the options available for transitioning between slides because it really separates itself from powerpoint by providing a modern visual such as the cuberotate and the swap.  You can also insert videos and links on the slides, but I didn't need to do either.

Another seemingly cool thing is that users can download their presentation. However, you have to pay for it. This was a huge disappointment because I knew the internet connection in the room I would be teaching in is not reliable. I needed something I could use without internet and I was not about to pay sliderocket anything.

Then, Sliderocket was saving my work and something went wrong, an "error" happened. One of my slides was lost and others lost quite a bit of information which I had recently added. I was already running late and had to spend another 30 minutes redoing the lost pieces. I ended up copying and pasting all of my information into a powerpoint because I was so frustrated and mad at sliderocket. This type of thing makes me nervous about working on anything that is saved only on the web. I feel like I have no control whether something gets deleted or not. On my computer, I can at least save it after big additions or revisions and I can even back it up to a flashdrive, but on the web, it could just disappear and I would never see all my hard work every again.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

I wish I was as POOR as Teachers!

The purpose of this is not to prove that teachers make too much money or too little money. It’s to make people think and to put some perspective on things.

The following is a journal entry from 2005 by a high schooler. Pseudonyms are used for obvious reasons.

I ripped into Mr. S today. I didn’t mean to. He’s a nice teacher and I like him, but he was the last straw. He made a comment about how he doesn’t make any money as a teacher and I snapped. I gave him a five minute lecture on how bad it is for him to be complaining about how much money he makes when he could have students who are actually poor and how does that make them feel and on and on. I expect that kind of thing from the lazy coaching “teachers” but not from Mr. S; he seems quality. It’s like it’s a rule that if you’re a teacher you must meet a quota of number of times you complain about your salary. Mr. S is young. I wish he would challenge the norm and not just follow in the footsteps of others.

I’ve been listening to teachers complain about how much money they make (or DON’T make) for years and for some reason a lot in the past few weeks and I’m sick of it! I figure my parents must make a fraction of what teachers make since we can't afford their lives. So my dad gets paid less AND his job is way harder yet he doesn’t complain… okay, sometimes he does, given what’s natural for a human. I mean, he did CHOOSE his profession so I kinda don’t feel TOO bad… but so did teachers! They knew they were going into a field that doesn’t pay tons because they have also listened to their teachers who complained about it. So then why do they expect more? Are they the children of rich middle class couples, spoiled, have no clue about what a hard life really is, and expect the world to hand them a high standard of living?

Mrs. J lives in that new, big, brick home. I wish I lived in a house that nice. Maybe she just has a wealthy husband, but what about Mr. and Mrs. D? They’re both teachers and they just bought that one house. Plus they paid me a lot for babysitting one little girl. It was really nice in there. Nothing was broken, Nothing was hand-me-downs-and-down-and-down. It looked like they have everything they need and want. I mean, it’s not a mansion and they don’t have boats but not everyone can be THAT rich. I don’t feel bad for teachers. Looks like they’re livin it up to me. Then again, I'm not coming from parents who are doctors or lawyers or anything like that. Their lives probably seem like poverty compared to the childhood they are coming from, but it looks luxurious to me. But what about Mrs. M? Her house is small and she lives paycheck to paycheck… she also got pregnant when she was a teenager and her husband is working part time.... She's an exception. I just look at teachers’ clothes, cars, houses, cell phones, and think, “Wow, I wish I was as poor as you.” Mr. B has a motorcycle, a pool, a billiard table, a nice car and he doesn’t even do anything! I wonder how much teachers REALLY make….. Mom says $30,000 is a respectable starting wage. So, I guess, that means teachers make $20,000? $25,000?

Furthermore, it’s always (almost) said like this, “Good thing I’m not doing it for the money cause we get paid nothing.” This pisses me off cause if you truly weren’t doing it for the money then why bring it up and complain about it? Saying things like, “I work my butt off and get paid peanuts,” is insulting to someone who works or comes from parents who work longer and more laboriously and get paid less. I know teachers have degrees and most people who get paid less don’t, but, in reality, no one’s gonna care if you’re “qualified” or “certified.”All they’re gonna see is a bunch of people who work with kids, get summers off, and still think they’re living in poverty and their lives are awful. Pointing out that you have a degree almost makes it worse cause it’s like you’re saying, “Look at me! I’m better than you!” No wonder the poor hate the rich. My family’s not even that poor and teachers certainly aren’t rich either. It’s almost like teachers are the sophomores in society- taking pride in being better than those below them yet still lusting to be an upperclassman.

If teachers are poor, am I supposed to feel ashamed of my background? Of my life? I don’t feel ashamed. At least, I don’t think I do. But if teachers believe that their situation is soooo bad, then what does that say about mine? My family of SEVEN can survive just fine off of our income but apparently it’s not enough for teachers. I just think people don’t realize how good they have it which makes sense considering the sayings “You don’t realize what you have until it’s gone” or “It’s always greener on the other side.” I can think of plenty of other kids who are worse off than my family. I wonder how THEY feel.

I don’t want to be too harsh. I have many amazing teachers and many who DO work their butts off. I just wish they wouldn’t complain about their pay. And it sucks for the teachers who work hard that there are teachers like Mr L who really honestly don’t do much. I can just picture him in his Union “We are Professionals” T-shirt saying, “Wha wah wah, my job is sooo hard. I’m a lazy football coach who copies notes from the textbook, has my students grade their tests, and chastises students for daring to ask questions and actually learn something.”Once he starts doing as much work and is as amazing as Mrs. Q, then he can maybe start thinking about complaining.

This is just something to think about in regards to your own students. I'm sure most high quality teachers are aware of how much their words, actions, and attitudes affect students. Just remember that you don’t always know what’s going on in their lives and you can’t always ascertain their socioeconomic status. This is besides the fact that it is very unprofessional to be discussing salary in front of students anyway.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Digital Story Board Example using Prezi

an image from my digital storyboard example
I expanded on a lesson plan idea suggested in my post Explore Museums Around the World.... for FREE!!. Basically, I created my own personal example for students to look at while doing this digital storyboard assignment. I also made various drafts of my story outlines to show them how messy composing and revising can be (Beginning, Draft 1, Draft 2, Draft 3). This lesson could make a great art class project and it DOES greatly integrate history. Unfortunately, it is not supported by any particular GLCE that I know of, which means it would not realistically be used; most do not have enough time to teach even the basics let alone a project such as this. However, since it is already prepared, I could see it as a good enrichment project to be set aside for substitute days or days in which something unexpected happens and the teacher is for some reason standing there without a lesson plan or for unruly days such as just before a vacation (Thanksgiving, winter break, spring break, etc.). In any school I have been in there are always at least a couple of these afternoons that get thrown to the wind….. which is interesting considering my statement before about how no one seems to have time to teach even the basics, but that’s diverging from the topic. Another disadvantage is that there could be much confusion from students if there is a sub who doesn’t have answers for their questions. Another drawback for this being a “quick, informal, afternoon lesson” is that the whole thing took me 2 days of my Spring Break to finish. So, it would have to either be more of a long term project or be modified and have different expectations than the one I created. It also seems logical that a lesson on copyright would make sense as a prerequisite considering the amount of research and media which is involved.  

Positives for using digital storyboards
+It makes it fun especially if students are used to presenting project after project on poster boards and standing in front of the class saying “Blah, blah blah.”
+It allows for multimedia (videos, text, images) and is aesthetically pleasing
+This is something they can show their parents and keep for years.
+If done in groups, it allows for students to work on it separately as opposed to having to meet physically for any accomplishment.
+Digital Storyboards offer student choice and variety between projects if they are allowed to pick their own tool. There are many options. However, it might be easier to limit their options since the teacher will likely have to provide assistance in using the tools.  

Pros/Cons to Prezi 
+loved the “zebra” tool for selecting, changing the size of, and rotating an object.
+creates a very modern looking and creative presentation
+provides a tutorial
+was fairly easy to figure out without watching the tutorial (since I rarely have patience for them, although I admit that sometimes it might save time and frustration in the end)
-one of my youtube videos takes a while to load, but that might not be Prezi’s fault
-you can’t control how long the auto play stays at each stopping point
-cannot add voice to it, I even tried recording on my laptop and uploading the sound file but it doesn’t allow that
-it ONLY allows embedding youtube videos, trust me- I tried adding a video from google-docs
-doesn’t allow for links to other sites, which would be nice considering the previous point, however you can insert the URL for viewers to copy and paste
-some images were pixilated but it could have been due to the quality of the original image and thus not Prezi’s fault
-became frustrated with the pointer automatically selecting objects without me knowing about it… had to use the “undo” button many times
+has an “undo” button :D

UPDATE: After more research, it turns out that this idea IS indeed supported by the GLCE's and could be a legitimate lesson plan used in the classroom as seen here

Monday, February 21, 2011

Home Visits: Bad? Good? Why?

In many of my courses at MSU, the idea of teachers visiting their students’ houses has been upheld as a great method of building relationships and learning about the student’s cultural knowledge.  While I do see how meeting families in their homes would be beneficial, I am very hesitant about the whole thing for a few good reasons. 
1.       As a student, I would have felt very uncomfortable if any of my teachers had visited my house (with a few exceptions of those whom I was very close to or who already knew my family). Students cannot control their home life but they can control who they are at school. Seeing the student’s home environment may give you insight but it also could make the student feel exposed and vulnerable when he/she did not choose to be.
2.       If the teachers visit the student’s houses, do the students and/or their parents visit the teacher’s house? It seems like the idea of the teacher going around to people’s houses could stir up some feelings of, “That person can come in, look at us, study us, and judge us, but we can’t go to their home” (whether the teacher is actually judging or not). I would like to add to this that, overall, students and/or their families visiting my home would make me very uncomfortable, but I admit that I have the attitude that my personal life and my professional life should remain generally separate, with some exceptions.  
3.       Doesn’t this enter into some gray area in terms of professional conduct? Or am I just drawing the lines too rigidly? Horror stories have me terrified of simply being alone with one student let alone driving them home or visiting their house.
4.       Going off of #3, what if I visited my student’s house and saw something inappropriate or illegal? I would obviously be obligated to report it, and, in this instance, it seems that visiting their home destroyed the purpose of “building a relationship,” at least a good one. Unless, I guess, the student was happy about it being reported, but it seems it would still make the situation awkward.

Perhaps a solution to some of my concerns above would be to simply get written consent from both the student and the parents that a home visit is okay. Additionally, calling and scheduling a set time for the visit would seem to be an appropriate protocol that could decrease #4 at least.

I am curious about how many teachers actually do home visits and what they have to say about it.