Saturday, May 12, 2007

Flickr. Fanatic Drools Over

Alright, so I will admit that I was pretty skeptical about blogging and using social networking tools when I began on this adventure. However, after all that I have learned about what technology has to offer, it's pretty difficult these days to pry me away from my keyboard. I haven't been abducted or put on a million list-serves, so I'm thinking my initial fears regarding the virtual world were probably a little unreasonable. I now view technology as a relatively user-friendly creative outlet that I should have taken advantage of many years ago. While I am still a little "technologically torn" about the use of video games in school and generally bad about keeping track of my cell phone, I have come to adopt words like Flickr and into my daily vocabulary. I understand that technology is becoming increasingly important and that it is a resource I will have to use in order to teach the generation of the future.

The Comfort of Company in Tappedin

It is such a wonderful feeling to know that you are not alone. Even when you think your fears or your situation are unique, nine times out of ten there is someone in this world going through similar emotions. Throughout this semester , I was lucky enough to be a part of a closed environment in which I was free to express my frustrations and concerns with a group of sympathetic pre-service peers and an army of mentors and seasoned teachers. Tappedin served as the comfort net I needed as I made my way through the trials of student teaching. By reading and responding to the posts of my fellow students, I was able to share my perspective on various topics related to the field of education and benefit from their valuable experiences in the classroom. In creating my own discussion threads, I was able to get feedback on problems that pertained to me specifically. I really value the support and encouragement that Tappedin provided me, and I recommend that all pre-service teachers become a part of a similar environment.

Teaching with Technology

One of the most important lessons that I learned this semester was that activities in the classroom don't always go as planned. Ultimately, when things seem to be going wrong, you are faced with two choices: panic or improvise. Although I had been warned about this possibility by practically every professor I have this semester, for some reason I thought that if I sat agonizing over every detail in my lesson plan, I would be just fine and things would go my way. Unfortunately, life happens and then you learn for yourself.
After discussing with my cooperating teacher that I would be planning my science lesson on matter, I started Googling and raiding the shelves of "teacher stores" for ideas. Once I found a couple of helpful resources, I put together my plan of attack and explored how the students could use the features of kidspiration to tie a little technological stimulation into the lesson.
It was only after I had finished putting together my lesson that I realized kidspiration was only available to the students in the computer lab and that I would be unable to
teach my activity during their scheduled time in the lab. Consequently, I was bummed to have to change my plans because I had witnessed how much the kids had enjoyed using on the laptops in my science circus a few weeks before (as seen in the picture above). Due to the fact that I was unimpressed with many of the webquests and websites I had found regarding the study of matter, I decided to simply incorporate technology into my lesson plan by creating a PowerPoint with a few diagrams and a couple of pictures from Flickr.
However, on the day of my lesson the overhead projector I was supposed to be hooking up to my laptop did not want to display the PowerPoint I had created. After a few frustrating attempts to troubleshoot the problem on my own, my cooperating teacher made a call to the technology instructor who was able to get everything working as I began my introduction to matter. While I was preparing to teach the lesson without my slides, I was more than happy to see the pictures flash onto the screen. The students were immediately excited by the visual aid as well. Apparently, PowerPoint is not used very often by the lower elementary teachers at my school, so my brief presentation was a nice change of pace for the students.
Overall, I felt that the lesson went very well given the minor technology glitch I ran into. However, in the future I will definitely allow for a little extra time for setup whenever my lesson plan involves the use of laptops and projectors.

A Reflection on My Reflection

Have you ever had one of those mornings when the person staring back at you from the mirror looks strangely unfamiliar? Today was one of those mornings for me. Recently, my life has been such a whirlwind that I have not had the chance to catch up with my own reflection. I have been too busy running from one place to the next to notice those gradual changes which sneak up on everyone. However, today I slowed down to see what I have become.

If you were to ask two of my friends to describe me, there is great possibility that you will get contradicting responses. I think people have always recognized that I am little “different” than the girl next door. Rather than a balance, I have a personality made up of what may seem to be impossible extremes. I’m often indecisive, but one of the most opinionated and passionate people you will ever meet. I can be completely unorganized, yet extremely meticulous about details. I have no problem being in the center of things, but in some environments I can transform into that quiet girl on the sidelines.

Through all of the challenges and new situations I have encountered this semester as a student-teacher, the different aspects of my dynamic personality have gotten a chance to come out. I have had moments of strength, when I impressed myself with my abilities, and moments of weakness, when I failed to reach my intended goal. As I look back, I can honestly say that I am proud of the work that I have done, even the assignments which did not turn out as exactly as I had hoped they would. I have continuously given my all and tried to use the positives in my personality to tackle the negatives. I have become more confident, willing to accept constructive criticism, and open to change. Overall, I feel that I have built meaningful relationships with the students that I work with and discovered a little more about the teacher looking back at me.

Monday, May 7, 2007

My Final Design Project

Let's just say it feels good to be done. There is a sense of sweet satisfaction that only comes from completing an assignment. Below is a link to my final design project for tech ed class. By making my mini-movie I was able to learn a lot, and I must say I'm feeling pretty good about my new skills. I would blog about it, but I think it's time for a quick nap. However, I hope you enjoy watching it while I'm asleep! I'll be back to write about all that I have learned soon.

My PhotoStory on Change


Please feel free to post about my project. For those of you that are tough critics, I just wanted to advertise that this was my first attempt at using photostory so I'm sure there is probably room for improvement. While I will take credit for putting it together on my own, the message behind this project was inspired by my professor Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and a number of e-mentors.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Technologically Torn

If you call my cell phone, but reach my voice mail, don't be surprised. Chances are my Samsung is vibrating somewhere in vain. It may be abandoned in yesterday's coat pocket, lodged between a couch cushion, or left plugged into the charger. The truth is my roommate often has a better idea of where my cellular device might be than I do. I never did understand why so many of my friends nearly break their neck in the process of running to the phone whenever it rings.

I admit my aversion for cell phones is a bit unusual for a 20 year old. My friends and family are constantly getting on me about being so “unavailable” in the age of communication. I must agree that sometimes they are right. It's not that I'm completely technologically inept or antisocial; it's just that I don't understand why people act as if there was never a time when cell phones did not exist. I know that technology is becoming increasingly more important in our world. Despite, much of what I’ve just said, I have really grown to like technology in most cases. I enjoy the convenience of my laptop and the entertainment of my iPod. But maybe my rebellion against cell phones is just me being an old soul and appreciating a time when you couldn't be tracked down by the Nokia on your belt loop and life was a bit more “real”.

Beyond my cell phone discussion, I guess my point is that I would like to view technology as an extension of human ability. Unfortunately, I feel that many times there is a point at which technology handicaps people because it makes “knowing,” “experiencing,” and “physically doing” less important. People are less compelled to talk to a person face to face because they feel the same objective can be met by simply talking to them over the phone. There will be a conclusion to a discussion either way, but are the results really the same. I would argue that they are not.

A few weeks ago one of my classmates brought up a really great question. She asked, "Whatever happened to Mozart and the people who were writing symphonies at 12?" She went on to say that she felt as if people were growing progressively less interesting as they became glued to video games and computer screens. My first thought regarding this comment was that the world has never had many Mozarts and that’s why we remember his name more than two centuries later. None the less, her words rang with an air of truth. After listening to her thoughts and reading another classmate’s (Andrew Orndorff) convincing rebuttal, I’ve come to the conclusion that I am technologically torn. Technology has its pros and cons and there are definitely situations when it is difficult to determine which side outweighs the other.

Perhaps the greatest example I can give of how technology has the ability to rob us and help us at the same time involves physical education in school. Last semester I was writing my final paper for Foundations of Education on the declining health of American children and I came across an article entitled Fast-foot Fitness. I was completely shocked at what it said. According to this article the popular video arcade game known as Dance Dance Revolution, or DDR, will become a mandatory part of the physical education curriculum in West Virginia’s 753 public schools by the end of 2008. While I will agree that the physically challenging video game is a clever way of attacking childhood obesity, I don’t understand how educators can fully endorse children trading in their time outdoors and team jerseys to play an interactive video game. I know that the goal is to improve the health of our children, but is depriving them of fresh air and social interaction really the answer? This is just one tough question of many that the 21st century will force us to answer in regard to how technology shapes our daily lives.

Lash, Cindi. "Fast-Foot Fitness." Post-Gazette.Com. 4 June 2006. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. .

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Response to Laptops on Expedition

It’s truly amazing what children are capable of creating when given access to technology and the freedom to explore. Watching Laptops on Expedition was an inspiring reminder that learning should be interactive. Learning does not have to be a process in which knowledge constantly flows from the teachers to the students. Teachers can learn from their students as well. In viewing this short documentary, I saw 7th graders take the lessons they learned from a Unit on endangered species and create a wonderful documentary and presentation. The teachers at the school worked closely with one another to connect the academic lessons being taught in each class. The students were able to go far beyond what they received from class lectures and effectively demonstrated to the teachers what they learned without a formal test or essay. I thought it was fantastic that a mixed-income school with so much diversity could improve that significantly in a short period of time. The experiences those children were gaining through the use of laptops in the classroom will be valuable knowledge for their futures.

There were so many times in my own educational experience when my teachers underestimated my abilities and those of my peers. Looking back on my middle school and high school days, I recall very few opportunities when I was given the reigns over my own learning. I would have really enjoyed an activity such as the one carried out by these middle school children. For this reason, I hope that I will be able to lead my own students in projects similar to Laptops on Expedition one day in the near future.