PLN Activity 8

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http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/online-courses-could-widen-achievement-gaps-among-students/42521

Jake New proposes an interesting point of view on online courses in this article. He explains that online courses could be actually widening the achievement gap of today’s students. Jake says that although studies have shown that online courses can be of great benefit to older students who are living at home and can’t attend a physical school, there are other studies that have been done that suggest online courses decrease a student’s likelihood of getting a degree.

I found this piece of information rather insightful and began to wonder why this may be the case. I came up with a few possible reasons:

  1. Students taking these online classes already lack the motivation and drive to attend a classes in a physical setting.
  2. There isn’t as much of a feeling of community when you’re online because the face-to-face interaction isn’t there; whereas at a university, you attend classes and see familiar faces around classes, which may prompt you to enjoy the college experience/education moreso.
  3. Student’s who are enrolling for these classes may just be looking for an “easy way out” of attending school by taking online courses, but end up learning that they have the same (if not harder) level of difficulty as any other class.

Regardless of the reasoning behind this data, it prompted me to wonder what education will look like in 10, 15, or even 20 years. Online courses are a rather new idea, as they’ve only been around for the past decade or so. Will they become more popular in years to come? Or will people lose interest and start to prefer attending physical classes instead?

What do you think?

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PLN Activity 7

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Return to ECMP

The blog I’d like to review today was created by a man named Dean Shareski. While browsing through his site, I found a variety of insightful information whether it was videos he’d created or presentations he’s given. Dean writes about the world of modern education and shares some of his thoughts on technology in the classroom.

One blog post that I found particularly valuable and relevant to our SPED 312 class revolves around Dean’s thought that “if we really want to assess school we need to include evaluation and assessments that happen years after a course.” In his blog post, he did just that. Reaching out to students he had years back in the first classroom to ever use pod casts, he asked his students to reflect on how his class may have influenced them (if at all) later on in life.

To touch base with them, he decided to meet via a video chatting program. The students he talked with were asked whether the things they’d learned from his class made a difference in their lives. Majority of the students said that the course he taught did impact their teaching careers and they find themselves using what he’s taught every day.

I thought what Dean had to share about his assessment philosophies was rather insightful. His perspective that you can’t truly tell how much a student learned from your class unless you test them years in advance is something that resonated within my own beliefs. I think they should implement more long-term testing in education to see whether students are actually retaining the information they learn.

He also encourages his students to blog, and even refers to himself as a life-long subscriber to their blog posts. I found this ironic considering the class that I’m blogging for is my Technology in Education course. It makes me wonder whether I will continue to keep up with my colleague’s blogs in the future (I hope I do!) This also really made me realize how powerful a tool blogging is because you’re sharing your ideas with the entire world! (how neat is that)

Mini Challenge 6

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In this blog post, I will provide a comprehensive review of 5 assessments that I got the opportunity to examine in my SPED 312 class.

Turning point anywhere software

The first assessment I reviewed was the Turning Point Anywhere Software. This software is an interface for polling in PowerPoint, polling in any application and self-paced polling. I got the chance to actually create a poll using it, and found it very easy to learn how to do as well as administer the poll. Another benefit of this software is that it’s totally up to you what kind of questions you want to include in the poll. For more information on how to use Turning Point, here’s a YouTube video to help you out:

Discovery Education Assessment

The Discovery Education Assessment was intended to provide a detailed review of scores via charts and other tools. This assessment was created to test how well students learn from Discovery Education. Discovery Education prides themselves on providing “award- winning digital content, interactive lessons, real time assessment, virtual experiences with some of Discovery’s greatest talent, classroom contest & challenges, professional development and more.” They have a variety of content areas that are filled with tools and multimedia items. I found this assessment to be very innovative and modern.

Individual student report

The individual student report was a great tool because you could see the breakdowns of each section. It gave a detailed report of which categories and subcategories the student excelled or struggled in. The only disadvantage to this is that you can’t extract any of the thought processes that were involved in achieving the score. The student could have made a blind guess and gotten the question correct, or conversely could have had all the thought process to get the question right, but made one simple mistake.

Excel/data analysis

The excel/data analysis assessment was valuable because it gave a visual representation of the collected data. The administrator types scores into a blank document and then there’s an option to “graph” these points. From there, you can clearly see whether there is a strong linear correlation by selecting “fit” in order to get a line of best fit.

Dibels

The last assessment I reviewed was Dibels. The purpose of the Dibels assessment is to test a student’s literacy abilities. With this information, teachers can tailor their literacy instruction to the needs of the student. By reviewing the assessment, I had to listen to a recording of a student reading, and then pay attention to how many words they got correct. From this information, I could make judgments on how easy or difficult the text was, and teachers could use that to modify and adjust lesson plans.

Why is assessment is an essential tool to the special education teacher?

I believe that assessment in the classroom is critical because teachers need to have an awareness of the variety of levels present among students. Without this information, they wouldn’t know whether the lesson plans or instructional methods they’re utilizing are effective. Because there is such a wide variety of needs in a special education classroom, knowing the specific levels and needs of the students is crucial in order to provide the best kind of education for them.

 

 

PLN Activity 6

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http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/2013/03/children-of-core-american-students-at.html

I found this blog post by Lisa Nielsen really insightful because she brought up a controversial topic: Race to the Top. Nielsen stated that the whole design behind the policies put into place are hurting our children’s ability to be innovative. If you’re unfamiliar with the components of Race to the Top, click here for more information. Basically, the key goals/policies within it are:

  • Development of rigorous standards and better assessments
  • Adoption of better data systems to provide schools, teachers, and parents with information about student progress
  • Support for teachers and school leaders to become more effective
  • Increased emphasis and resources for the rigorous interventions needed to turn around the lowest-performing schools

While these all seem to be rather tangible goals, I think Nielsen brings forth an imperative argument. As she mentions, Common Core Standards are already hindering both students and teachers ability to be creative and innovative in the classroom. While these standards aim to set a universal design for each classroom, it’s unreasonable to assume that every classroom is the same.

Aside from that, the education system doesn’t need more assessments because assessments don’t initiate change. What the classrooms need is flexibility and room for creativity. Teachers should be provided with more tools and technology to carry out lessons. Students should be exposed to new technology in education so that they may be more productive and innovative.

So, now it’s your turn. How do you feel about the policies that are outlined in Race to the Top?

PART 3 (Twitter Portion)

I have retweeted three posts that I found valuable. Here they are!

https://twitter.com/web20classroom/status/310080564592005120

I felt that this tweet embodied what our SPED 312 class is all about: finding ways to use technology to our greatest advantage in the classroom. I think that as times are changing and we are moving forward with innovations, technology should be integrated more frequently in the classroom. Teachers just need to become educated on their uses, first.

https://twitter.com/coolcatteacher/status/310186631254659072

I thought it was really neat how Vicki had her students create their own webpages (kind of what i’m doing!) The earlier you education children on the variety of uses the internet has, the better. I think it’s great she’s introducing her students to such a challenging task, and it will be extremely beneficial for them to know in the years to come!

https://twitter.com/web20classroom/status/310083707165892608

Well put. It seems like the minute something new and hip comes out (the flip cell phone), something better is already in the making (a touchscreen cell phone.) The technological products and tools we are using today will change, but that certainly doesn’t mean we will ever stop creating, playing, and utilizing them.

PLN Activity 5

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Part One | Ignite!

http://www.screenr.com/M8q7

Ignite is a wonderful and highly interactive tool you can make presentations with. It is unique because you can not only record audio, but also film the computer screen at the same time! This makes it easy to explain how-tos, abstract concepts, and endless other ideas. In my Ignite video, I chose to talk about a topic I hold near and dear to my heart: my family. Although I did have some issues with the recording tool, I managed to fill up most of the 5 minute time constraint.

Part Two | Twitter

Vicki Davis shared an interesting article about all of the ways the Internet and Social Media has changed our world. The article provides a graphic representation of the different information/tools that are available thanks to the Internet. It also discusses how the Internet has caused “huge shifts in ideologies and an ongoing rethink in how we absorb and process information.”

Okle Miller shared a link to MacinVIA, a website that provides access to ebooks and online databases. What I liked about this tweet was that with the advancement in technology, powerful resources like books are becoming more and more available. Ebooks are efficient because they can provide you with a 30 pound textbook that is completely weightless, and you can access it anywhere there’s Internet.

Steven W. Anderson copied a link to a very informative article regarding all of the resources for digital learning. Some of the resources it highlights are research/curation, ebooks/reading, common core lesson plans, tools for teaching, and unique apps for the iPad that can aid in teaching lessons.

PLN Activity 4

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Part One: Exploring Twitter: A MicroBlogging Information Tool

Vicki Davis shared an excellent link to an article written by Martha Giffen about the importance of online visibility. She suggests creating your own blog, website, online groups or forums, and a strong social media presence to boost your visibility. The benefits of marking your presence all over the web is so that your prospective workplaces will have a way to find you and get an accurate glimpse of what you’re all about. If you need help with building visibility, simply click here!

Steven W. Anderson is another technological guru, with majority of his tweets relating to tips to make your classroom more up-to-date in the world of technology. In this tweet, he shared a link to an article written by himself about inviting TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) into your classroom. It is an online conference where innovative educators from around the world can bring forth their forward thinking and hopefully give people some great ideas!

What I really love about Shannon Miller’s tweets is that she brings the ideas and projects she implements in her own classroom to the social media world. In this tweet, Shannon shared a really neat way to get students at a young age emerged into the technological possibilities available online. She mentioned that her school held a “Going Google” Day, where students created presentations via Google Docs. I think Google Docs are not only an easy tool for children to learn, but also extremely efficient as they can use one website to share their endless ideas in multiple ways! 🙂

Part Two: What it means to be a citizen of the digital age

Egyptians Demonstrate Digital Citizenship

Steven Balkam’s article paints a picture of modern day Egypt: a society that is moving closer toward web-based activism and people-centric leadership through the powerful use of the web. They’ve used social media such as Twitter and Facebook to organize and carry out protests demanding their rights of free expression and assembly in hopes that their voices will be heard.

I think that this article and what is going on in Egypt right now directly encompasses what it means to be a digital citizen of the 21st century. The people organizing these riots are using their rights to show the rest of the world what ideas and ideals come forth when you take responsibility as a digital citizen. They are using a can of tools to open up the endless possibilities and powers of the internet.

Relating to schools in America, I believe the tools are all there because obviously if other countries are taking advantage of them they exist. However, the education system is not built upon a tree growing endless dollars, and there is certainly not enough money to go around to ensure that all students have access to the same digital resources.

With that being said, I don’t believe our schools are fully prepared to meet the needs of the digital citizen. In my 16 years of schooling, volunteering in different schools, and even working in schools far away from my hometown, I have seen one smart board in a classroom. Not only that, the smart board was rarely even used, as the teacher in that class preferred the chalkboard, instead.

I’m aware that smart boards are not the newest form of technology available for use in the classroom today, but that is the newest form I have ever been exposed to personally. I think future educators need to be educated on the benefits, tools, and innovations at hand when it comes to technology so that they may integrate that into future lesson plans. Only then, we may be able to move students forward in becoming a digital citizen.

PLN Activity 3

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Temple Grandin discusses how the world needs “visual thinkers, pattern thinkers, verbal thinkers, and all kinds of smart geeky kids.” Some of the key points she brought to the table were:

  • You can make a mind more cognitive or social. Autism gets a trade-off between the two.
  • In severe cases of Autism, kids are non-verbal.
  • The world needs these minds for the future.
  • We need to get kids focused on building new things.
  • Teachers should modify instruction for students with Autism based off of their fixation in order to truly motivate them.
  • We need good teachers in the high schools.
  • Mentors are essential.
  • Teachers have to get students turned on by what they’re interested in.

Grandin explores these main ideas while integrating several stories from her own experiences living with Autism. I think what makes this video great is that it emphasizes all of the potential and abilities PWA have rather than their disabilities. As a future educator, I feel it will be extremely important to keep this in mind. This way, I can tailer my lesson plans to the varying needs of my students.

One of the concepts I felt was most useful was that teachers (especially in special education) should find whatever makes students intrigued and use it to their advantage when developing lessons. Personally, I know that this would have helped me in my schooling. Subjects like math and science were exceedingly hard for me to understand because my teachers never showed me substantial reasons as to why they’re important. In fact, these classes were dreadful at best for me to go to. Standardized tests like the ISAT and PSAT just reiterated how terrible I performed in the subject areas. I would receive the scores and they served as a mental reminder that math and science will never be my strong suit.

As Grandin explained, teachers will deal with visual thinkers, pattern thinkers, music/math minds, and verbal minds. All of these have their own strengths and then obviously weaknesses, but it is important to remember that all students are different. Teachers need to be sensitive to what kind of thinkers their students are so they can figure out how each will learn best.

A student who has a music mind may look (or rather sound) like this:

Obviously, these students have something unique to offer the world. Teachers need to find what it is that makes their students shine and most importantly, encourage them.