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.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Collective Brain

Photo Attribution:
by The Opte Project
 Released by an Attribution-Share Alike License: 

This is one of my favorite images which I have found using the Creative Commons Search. As the creator put it, "This project was created to make a visual representation of a space that is very much one-dimensional, a metaphysical universe" (the internet). I think the specific image at right is accurately depicting the internet on November 23, 2003. 

I would use this image in a similar way in the classroom as Matt Ridley did in his lecture When Ideas Have Sex. I would use it to remind my students that they each have value and are needed by society because we are all interdependent. IQ means absolutely nothing. Whether you are the smartest, fastest, strongest, etc. doesn't matter because you are needed for being you. (This is, of course, besides the fact that being literally the smartest, fastest, strongest, or best at anything is only possible for one person at a time, and thus a ridiculous goal to have for 99% of the population.) This is also supported by one of the Nine Organizaing Themes for Understanding Ethical Practices in the book Behavior Management by Wheeler and Richey: "Each student as an individual human being has worth and dignity, despite the nature or severity of his troubling behavior." So even if you are a cashier at McDonald's, you are needed by everyone.... even those who don't like McDonald's.

Okay, so if you passed over this video the first time, this is me saying you should seriously watch this: When Ideas Have Sex.

Explore Museums Around the World.... for FREE!!

I have recently fallen in love with using the street view and images on Google Maps to explore the world (list of places to visit). For instance, as my friend was physically visiting the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, I was viewing them online. I see it as a free way to expand my horizons while sitting in my living room. A new option is now being offered by Google: Google Art Project

Google Art Project provides virtual tours of art museums around the world. It is free and you do not need to set up an account to use it. There are two main ways of experiencing the tour: “Explore Museum” or “View Artwork.” Exploring the museum gives you the view as if you are actually walking around. Viewing the artwork shows you one painting at a time in which you may zoom in and out or go to the next painting.  I created a video explaining it in depth as opposed to trying, in vain, to explain it in written words.

I suggest pressing the "expand" button at the bottom right corner to watch it in full screen.

Pros &  Cons
+field trip to museums without permission slips and transportation fees
+“go” to places you wouldn’t be able to on a normal field trip (such as other countries)
+get an idea of the actual size of the paintings. For example, I’ve seen the image of the Mona Lisa hundreds of times but I’ve heard that it’s actually unexpectedly small.
+can navigate virtually as if you were there
+don’t have to worry about students breaking anything, pulling the fire alarm, getting left behind or lost, etc.
+audio tours and youtube videos produced by the museums as well as links to the museum website
-/+visual quality is low in “explore museum” mode however quality is excellent when you select a specific painting
-/+miss out on having a guide tell you about the paintings and cannot read the descriptions on the wall, but you can read about them under “viewing notes”
-sometimes “see more” under “viewing notes” gives information in a different language than English
-moving around in “explore museum” can be difficult
-controlling students exposure to nudity? If that’s an issue
-some of the paintings have glare on them from the “explore museum” mode

Lesson Plan Ideas
  • Write about your reactions to this painting. What are your first impressions? What are your impressions from being zoomed out or zoomed in on a specific spot? Try using all five senses even though you are not actually there; use your imagination.
  • Do a comparison project. Choose one painting or sculpture that you like, write or record your voice about your reaction to it, and then find out more information about the artwork and the artist. Then, discuss how knowing the background information changed your view of it for good or bad or did not change your view. Repeat for a piece of art that you find boring and do not like, and then compare your initial reactions to both paintings to your reactions after finding out more information.
  • Discuss why someone would paint this? What moved them? Why would someone buy it? What is the importance of art and expression amidst a world of science?
  • Write a story inspired by the painting they see. This could involve using the background information or not.
  • Create your own artwork collection (account required). Choose five pieces of art that speak to you and write about what specifically strikes you in the comments. OR choose five views of one piece of art and write about what each one means to the big picture in the comments.

As far as TPACK, the Google Art Project lessons focus more on the technology and art aspect than on traditional academia. I tried finding some GLCE’s to support the above lesson plan ideas but I mostly only found those pertaining to writing and composing since there are no art GLCE’s of which I am aware. I think the benefit of doing an activity such as this with your students is demonstrating to them how the internet can give them access to the world.

P.S. I'm sorry that the video is not focused. This was my first time playing around with a screencasting software. I tried out a few of them and am not overly pleased with any so far. I'm open for any tips.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


I found this copyright lab to be enlightening. It increased my awareness and accountability as a user and as a teacher of users about the laws surrounding copyright particularly on the internet. However, I still feel quite a bit fuzzy about what I’m supposed to do when I attempt to actually apply what I have learned. I will probably have to go through the lab at least one or two more times to feel competent teaching about copyright.  I am more than happy to give credit where credit is due and to teach students that they are responsible to do the same. I think what causes me to be hesitant is the formatting. It seems as though the formatting requirements are almost as tedious and confusing as MLA and APA (rules governing the format of essays, citations, etc. according to Modern Language Association and American Psychological Association respectively). Now, I can understand the need for having a standard format. Consider this: 

The two "images" are the same (a box with an x in it), but clearly "cited" differently. If I was only looking at example A, I would not be sure if "Dan Harper" is the author or the title of the image, although I would guess it's the author. There IS a link to the source but it's tiny. Example B has the title but the author's name is not in full and there is no link to the source or any reference to a source at all. Having no conditions about what information is needed and where users can depend to find it can lead to confusion and inaccuracies. So, like I said, I can understand the need to have some dependability.

I can also understand why it gets complicated because there are so many exceptions and different types of information based on whether it’s an image, video, book, article, etc. Perhaps I simply need a resource similar to OWL to show me what information I need to use and where.

I’m also at a loss as to what I should do if I want to use a work that is not licensed by Creative Commons or not notated with some kind of indication of the usage rights. How do I find out this information? When it is annotated with a CC license, what do I do if the work is supposed to be attributed according to how the author wishes except I don’t know what the author wants. CC’s Frequently Asked Questions answered this one: “If the copyright holder has not specified any particular way to attribute them…. you will have to give attribution to the best of your ability with the information you do have.” Perhaps this applies to works on the web that have no specifications concerning how they can be used. On the other hand, lack of information effects the expectations for a standard format. 

Apparently there are even different citation rules depending on if you’re using Flickr verses CC verses who-knows-what-else which is confusing on top of itself because you can have a picture on Flickr and use a CC license at the same time. I also wonder if there are rules about where the license and citations are supposed to be located. Underneath the image? At the bottom of the website or blog? On a specific works cited page of a website or wiki? 
I am hoping, not hoping, planning on becoming more and more experienced and knowledgeable on this as I practice citing everything I can.

(Did I even cite the quote from above correctly?)

Copyright for the image used in this post: Creative Commons License
"Image of X" by Katie Murphy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Flashcard Machine

I tried out Flashcard Machine which is exactly what it sounds like- a website in which users can create online flashcards. You must have an account to CREATE flashcards but it seems as though non-users can view and flip through the cards if they have the URL. It even offers an option where you can identify yourself as a teacher. I'm not sure what the differences are between being designated as a teacher or a student or professional. However, a possible implementation of this as a teacher could include creating flashcards for your students and sending them the URL. This applies to any subject area and age group.

You can choose to be quizzed on the flashcards by being given the term or the definition. The quizzes are setup in multiple choice format which is not completely helpful for 100% memorization, but it still helps.

Downside: you can insert images BUT they must be from another online source which was disappointing because I was hoping I could simply upload images of the text instead of having to type it all up

P.S.After continuing to use Flashcard Machine, I still like it overall, but I find the requirements for creating a new set unnecessary. You have to fill in a subject area, grade level, description, etc. It really honestly doesn't take that long to fill out, and it makes sense since the purpose is to share flashcards with all the other users. However, I am just a student who wants to use it for my own benefit. I think I would feel the requirements worth while if I was creating flashcards for my students to use.

RSS Feeds need to Prevent Lonely Blogging

I started using Google Reader to follow blogs about 6 months ago but I still have not gotten into the habit of actually checking it. Perhaps I have not played with it enough to learn how to use it effectively or change the settings to suit myself. One of my frustrations has been that it does not update the comments on a blog. How is an RSS feed supposed to save me time when I still have to keep track of each blog I have commented on or am interested in to check if there are any new comments. I think reading and leaving comments are almost as important as the initial post since the point of a blog is to initiate discussion. I see so many blogs that sit there lonely as if no one has or ever will read them, and I don't want to contribute to lonely blogging. 

Finally a classmate told me that I had to create a separate feed for the comments of a post and I also figured out how to setup my blog so that others may choose to follow the comments. This HAS encouraged me to check Google Reader more often, as well as reorganizing my feeds and folders. Yet, it is still inconvenient that I have to have two separate feeds for posts and comments. In my mind, I pictured comment updates for a post appearing as indented bullets beneath the post in Google Reader. I was going to try a different reader such as Blog Lines but I didn't want to set up yet another account (since I feel as though I have hundreds of accounts all over the internet) and then end up not liking it. I watched a tutorial on Blog Lines and it didn't look much different from Google Reader.

Are ALL blogs capable of having the comments be followed or are there some that do not give that as an option?
Any advice? Any suggestions on a different RSS reader?

I realized that many blogs that do not offer an option to follow the comments through an RSS feed offer an option to receive emails anytime someone comments. I find this even more inconvenient than having to set up separate comment and blog feeds because I want all of my blog stuff to be in the same place.

After using two main methods of following comments, I have changed my mind. I now prefer to follow a post's comments through email. This is because, so far, there are only a few responses anyway so they are not bogging down my email account. Secondly, if I use my Reader to follow the comments, I will end up with a feed for EVERY SINGLE post I comment on. That would be quite a few! Still, I only PREFER email over the current system. I'm still waiting for a better method.