Sunday, September 28, 2014

Expanding the Classroom

Talk about a fantastic network for the ESL student to be able to tap into.  The in2books which is part of the epals program is a fantastic network for students of any background to come together with adults and discuss reading.  This really takes the classroom concept beyond just the four walls.  As an ESL student they are basically getting one-on-one guidance from someone other than their teacher.  This helps them in expanding their network and developing relationships through learning.  With each student being paired with another adult over the internet the child is given a different perspective on what they are reading other then their current surrounding.  Learning how other people think and relate to ideas is a major part of learning.  With this tool it gives the student a safe yet open space for the student to learn.

Used correctly a student is not only reading but writing and communicating which in turn they are practicing and hitting the Common Core Curriculum standards.  I really like this concept because it is out of the box.  Using technology to expand classroom time.  Though in thinking about this many ESL students will have to use public libraries to use this method.  I see it as a fantastic tool but in that thinking it could be a tough road for many of the student.  Possible but just not as easy as many of their peers who have a computer and internet right in their home.  Schools can also help by being open later and having the computer lab or library open.   

ESL2.1 - Developing skills in reading and writing and to electronically produce text.

A hook in my Velcro Ball

I really think that the Classroom 2.0 will be a fantastic tool to help me as an ESL teacher in the future. Classroom 2.0 is a social media site for teachers of all different backgrounds coming together to ask questions and share their knowledge of use of technology in the classroom.  There is even a group for technology support of ESL/EFL teachers.  There are also several groups and online “classes” where one can attend and continue to network and share technology ideas that are being used in the classroom and learn how they are being used.  This is a great site of collaboration to move teaching to the next level.

Not only are people sharing what they are doing in their classrooms people are asking questions and getting help.  This is a fantastic tool to keep in my network and my growth as a teacher ever expanding.  Another hook in my Velcro ball. 

The Velcro Ball

A learner is like a Velcro ball. Each hook of Velcro linking itself to a network. The more Velcro hooks the more links that are able to be made about a certain topic. To stay current the hooks reach out for more networks and have the ability to move away from others when they have become obsolete. This is important because “what we know today is not as important as our ability to stay current” according to George Siemens in his YouTube video “The network is the learning”. As a rolling Velcro ball the ball is able to change its networks.

In the article Connectivism: A learning Theory for the Digital Age, Siemens also points out that “the starting point of connectivism is the individual”, in this case the ball. The Velcro represents the “Personal knowledge” which then hooks itself into other networks making it part of its own network. In turn part of the other network which makes the learning environment reciprocal. Being a ball with hooks, a Velcro ball, the learner can connect itself to many networks all at once in many different directions. Being connected to so many networks at once allows the learner to be a part of what is current in the world and stay current as time progresses. Just don’t forget to roll around on occasion.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Pinterest or DIIGO

I have always considered Pinterest a great place for visual ideas.  Pinterest for me is for recipes, ideas for projects in art, architecture, travel ideas and other very visual concepts.  Coming up with creative ideas and sharing them visually is great.   DIIGO though seems like a fantastic filing system with even more features than a blog roll.         
                I found pictures for my topic boards that took me straight back to the source which in turn becomes much more useful.  It is really easy to go post happy and lose track of the point of what one is doing.  That is ok though because it is all organized in boards and can be moved around later.
                For me DIIGO is a much better filing place for items/sites that one just finds on the web- such as a whole website or pdf.  It does not need a Pinterest tag to place it on a board just a URL.  Also I can write a description of what the site is and several tags so when I or a follower would like to go to one of the websites listed they know more about the site.  Pictures are great, but they often don’t tell you what the site is that the picture came from.  For example I found a quote that I followed to the site it came from.  Turns out it is a site about why staying in high school is a waste of time.  It’s actually not a terrible site and many different viewpoints.  That is really a short view of the site but it is definitely not what I was looking for.  I could get onto that topic but it is also a rabbit hole. 
                On Pinterest it is really easy to follow someone or just a specific board they have that interests you.  This is great because you will always get new ideas quickly as they build their boards.  Also you can go straight to their boards if you have found that they have really great ideas in the past.  Sometimes if you find a good board the preliminary work is already done for you.
                It seems that as of very recently one can message people on Pinterest.  Also through email you are offered suggestions for other ideas if you request that this is done.  DIIGO is better at providing a place to share written information.  It is a place where one can share and archive articles to read, highlight, share concepts, rather than just a quick post-it.  I also prefer the tagging in DIIGO to search for my own information later.  Pinterest can get quite extensive quite quickly.  Also it seems that I can restrict who follows me on DIIGO while on Pinterest it is extremely open.    

                Both have fantastic benefits but have different ways of sharing lots of different information.  They also provide the user with very different tools and benefit packages depending on money spent on the site.  I am not sure one can even spend money on Pinterest while DIIGO has different level of users and tools.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Getting Ready for the Future in Today's Classroom

                                              Future Learning - Mini Documentary

Did you Know?/Shift Happens (Version 6)

      Watching these short films really made me excited, scared, worried, yet motivated that the students of today can be ready for whatever comes at them as adult.    After watching Version 6 things looked intimidating.  Facts such as India having more honor students an American kid population put together, by the age of 38 having 10-14 jobs.  Even bigger “The jobs of the future have not even been invented yet.”  This can be quite intimidating as a student and even as a teacher who is supposed to prepare them.  Armed with the right tools though it will not matter what the next or newest gadget is because they will be ready, I am sure of this.  We are not asking a child of 1920 to pick up a tablet and find out how to find where Mumbai is, we are asking a child of 2014 to do what comes naturally to them.  Pick up a cell phone, tablet, computer connected to the internet and find anything.  Right at their fingertips. Even homework help.  Kids are more use to this technology as ever before and are ready, willing and even excited about learning in a classroom where it is available. 
                The mini-documentary “Future Learning” makes some really amazing points.  The idea of the blury lines between play and learning.  Video games have come a long way. Children learn without even realizing that they just did that thing that they thought was just reserved for the big scary, boring classroom -learn.  Sugata Mitra makes an incredible observation that I have always thought to be a key to school and any situation.  This is reading comprehension.  Anyone with this skill is armed.  They are able to protect themselves against what he calls doctrine.  If a child is armed from a young age with reading they can always, always learn something new even without the classroom.  The knowledge can never just simply be taken away from them therefore becomes the most important protection for them and whatever may come in the future.  Being able to reason and retrieve information is really key to the future fluctuations of the world and being able to flow in and out of whatever is to come.  In this way the future becomes rather excited instead of big and scary.  With the incorporation of technology kids are even more excited about learning to read.  Even if it’s just to understand what is on the screen. The motivation is real and the kids are ready.  

The Internet Classroom

           As we sit here today the world is going by so quickly.  Technology has and keeps developing so quickly that we often don’t know what to grab onto.  Is it the best idea, the best tool, where I want to spend my time and sometimes my money?  Even something that use to be such a simple as the classroom the - the teacher, student, desk, blackboard and textbook has changed so rapidly that we could so easily be left behind.  With a little study though and the guidance of a teacher anyone can get their footing and move into the future.    
          The Networked Student is a simple video but demonstrates a fantastic, real way many people can learn with a little direction.  The great thing about this is once one learns the tool of Connectivism one can use the concept to do and learn about nearly anything.  One can sit in a room and be connected to the world through the tools of technology without ever entering a classroom.  One can almost ask the question - Did the internet kill the classroom as we knew?                   
             The teacher helps the student learn how to build a personal learning network on the internet, vet sources of information and organize the immense about of information that can flood the senses.  For example through podcast one is able to listen to top sources in the field one is researching and/or read an informed blog along with a YouTube video attached.  There is so much video one could not possibly watch all of it in a lifetime.  In this case the teacher is used as a guide and to focus the student on what is most pertinent in the research. Also the teacher can help one not fall into or sometimes get the student out of the "rabbit hole" which the internet can often feel like. 

                                             Networked Student  by Wendy Drexler

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Using Blogs as a teaching Tool

             The classroom setting only provides so much time where students are able to practice their skills.  Through the writing of the blog they will be practicing their writing skills.  It is also the act of each student time posting/responding back to a fellow student that will create a dialog that may not have happened in a classroom setting.  The blog setting allows students to learn from each other.  
  Each week the teacher could set up a topic for ease of getting a conversation started.   Not only are the students practicing their writing skills but are sharing what they are learning about their new culture.  Writing about their own observations, dislikes, and likes can help other students assimilate easier.  This can be prompted by the teacher asking questions each week. For example asking what they like best about their new culture? In order to progress the conversations as the year goes on the teacher can keep prompting with different questions that come from the posts that are made by students.  The blog can become a fantastic tool when creating a classroom experience when some students will not even be in the same classroom together. Yet, they can create a class by coming to each others' blogs on their own time and posting.       
   The blog format is very versatile and can be used to reach several  LOTE - ESL requirements.  A specific example is demonstrating electronic produced texts in ESL1.1
  As a teacher the blog can be a big part of professional development for the teacher to help learn about their students.  As pointed out in the blog by Zeinstejerwith the knowledge shared the teacher can better prepare lessons directed for the students and make lessons more interesting for each student they are teaching.  While quickly seeing where each student needs more practice or when a certain skill seems to have been mastered. The teacher is then able to move quickly to the next task and use time as wisely as possible.