Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Education Week: Districts Change Policies to Embrace Twitter, Facebook

Education Week: Districts Change Policies to Embrace Twitter, Facebook

It is great to see a few districts finally overcoming their fears and begin to look at how the new technologies can help improve student achievement. The number of schools willing to do this is still very small. It is a shame that so many of districts still operate out of fear. Teachers and administrators are often concerned about the rampant, unchecked, spread of web-based tools and mobile technology that allow students to bully, send inappropriate texts to each other and visit sites with dubious content. Even without these tools, do we have a system in place to prevent the students from doing these things without technology, e.g. writing notes, sending photos and letters? In my youth, without the web, student's still got their hands on inappropriate content, usually from their parents private desk, so what is the argument, just because they can be inappropriate faster?

I think the only real difference is the longevity of tweets and posts. A handwritten letter only has one copy, a tweet or post can go viral and millions of copies will exist. Our young students may not appreciate or care about that distinction yet. But what a great opportunity for classrooms to model appropriate uses and touch upon the concerns of web-based stuff. Where else will our kids are going to learn what is appropriate? A few parents might be monitoring their children's usage, but more often than not, the parents are not as capable as their children with these tools.? Dunn Elementary's use of twitter to both teach students how to write concise messages and stay connected with parents has a hugh potential to improve writing skills and parent participation by using relevant tools that keep students and parents engaged. They should be applauded, not only the teacher's use, but also the district's vision of what could be.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cell phones Part 2

Education Week: Teachers Using Cellphones for Classroom Lessons

Here is another article showing some great innovation in the classroom using cellphones. Change for change's sake is not a good thing. But resisting change for its own sake is just as futile. I like the message in this article. These teachers have embraced the change by finding the positives and making cellphones tools for learning instead of fighting the losing battle keeping them out of schools. The comment of one principal, "Kids cheat with pen and paper. They pass notes, you don't ban paper." is so apropos to so many issues with which our country deals not just in education. We, as a society, tend to react and and ban stuff whenever some horrific tragedy occurs. After Columbine, legislation dictated that schools cannot ban cellphones in school. But in the years since, schools have tried everything possible to prevent cellphones just shy of banning them, namely, not allowing them to be used, seen, turned on, or whatever. Despite all these use bans and discipline rules, cellphone possession and use have continued to increase in schools. Some students secretly use them in class, to cheat, or to socialize.

To prevent this, teachers could use a radically new technique [dripping sarcasm], engage their students in the subject matter. How many of us have endured endless hours of foreign language instruction memorizing vocabulary words? How enjoyable and how effective was that? These teachers are giving students the assignment to photograph examples of the words around campus and share with one another on their cell phones. When students are engaged with the teaching and learning, and the teacher is providing proper supervision, cheating and other distractions will decrease. Cellphones may not be the next greatest thing in teaching and learning. But they are here and schools do not have to buy them. Let's use them to enhance learning in the classroom instead of being a distraction.Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Education Week: Schools Shun Kindle, Saying Blind Can't Use It

Education Week: Schools Shun Kindle, Saying Blind Can't Use It.

I thought this was hilarious. The first sentence reads, "Amazon's Kindle can read books aloud, but if you're blind it can be difficult to turn that function on without help." Because of that difficulty, two universities have stated they will not adopt the technology. They universities further stated that they cannot adopt the kindle because it is against their policy to discriminate when they know the Kindle discriminates against the blind.

I was curious. I consider myself ridiculously liberal in most areas, and probably overly politically correct, but am I missing something here? Do these universities also shun textbooks, because, clearly, they are discriminatory towards the blind, and they do not have an audio on feature at all. Now, some of you might argue, that textbooks can be recorded and be given to blind students. But doesn't that involve needing many sighted people to help read, record, and deliver the material to the student? And if that is okay, can we ask someone help with that feature. I know they exist, but I have not seen too many computers in university labs with braille built into them. Many operating systems (Windows and Mac) have tools for visually impaired users such as enlarging text on the screen and commands that are read to the user as the cursor passes over them, but if one cannot see to turn those features on, they are in the same boat as the Kindle.

History notes that the Age of Enlightenment or the Age of Reason started in the early 1600's and ended right around 1800. The reading of this article seems to suggest that this might be true.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Students use web in exams

This just came out in BBC news. Denmark is piloting the use of the Internet and student laptops during their state exams. Mind you this is not a computer-based test that students type their answers online. This is a test that has only four questions, the students use whatever materials they have on their computers or online research to solve the problems. The only thing banned is communication with other students or other people via email or IM and the like.

My favorite line from the article is, Students are no longer required to regurgitate facts and figures. Instead the emphasis is on their ability to sift through and analyse (sic) information. While many educators in America would say the same statement, Denmark is moving toward a society that doesn't just talk about changing education, but lives out that reality with its entire education system. Minister for education in Denmark, Bertel Haarder, says: "Our exams have to reflect daily life in the classroom and daily life in the classroom has to reflect life in society."

To read the complete article:

or listen to the Early BBC Newshour:

Monday, October 26, 2009

Why Blog?

I ran across this on video about why students should blog. Thought it might be useful if you were not sure why or have difficultly explaining to admin or parents why blogging could be a powerful tool for teaching.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Cell Phones in the Classroom

I excerpted a portioned of a podcast from Public Radio International: The World, Technology podcast and included it in this post. I thought folks may enjoy this interview with a teacher, Greg Kulowiec, from Plymouth, MA that has found some ways to use cell phones in the classroom. I enjoyed how he used what technology was available. Most of his students already had them, so he tapped into that and utilized them in the classroom, first with something simple then progressed to more interesting uses. I think he has some innovative uses that radically reframes how students learn the basics, such as gathering and organizing data for research reports. Give it a listen and see what you think. I think you will enjoy getting some ideas about how cell phones might be incorporated into learning, if schools would ever lift the ban on their use in the classroom that is.

Cell Phone PRI.m4a

For the complete podcast:

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The $150 Edge-of-Space Camera: MIT Students Beat NASA On Beer-Money Budget

Just yesterday, Nancy and I were talking about engaging students with an authentic audience as we were discussing the Level 2 Technology Integration Academy webpage day. Then my alma mater emails me this article.

The $150 Edge-of-Space Camera: MIT Students Beat NASA On Beer-Money Budget

A couple of students were able to take a picture of the earth's curvature from the edge of space with $150 worth of store bought parts. Pretty fascinating. Equally fascinating, and somewhat disturbing, were the plethora of responses, both supportive of such innovation "besting NASA" and malignant of the students for recklessly endangering airplanes by interfering with flight patterns and possibly landing the styrofoam cooler on the head of some unsuspecting person. Well worth the read in my opinion.

Embedded in the comments were also a link to a high school, which apparently does this all the time. They use a similar technique to launch student experiments into the upper atmosphere.

I thought these were good examples of engaging students with real world challenges and providing the students with a more meaningful audience than a teacher grade.