Archive for September, 2007

New Century School House

September 30, 2007

OK you are supposed to model ideas that you want to teach. But when I looked at the new century school house web site I was underwhelmed. The project is an open canvas to allow teachers to adopt a “room” and describe an environment using technology to teach more effectively. But all of the rooms are so boring, all you see is a written wish list of things that would be used in the room and how they would be utilized. Why not use some other manner that is “cutting edge” to describe their ideal learning environment. Simple flickr photos with writing on them would be more useful and engaging than the droll list that is used now.

I don’t mean to flame this project because its goals are amiable they want to allow teachers to communicate and share ideas about technology integration and utilization in the classroom. But if you are going to preach it, teach it.

Did I mention that the forum is loaded with advertisements?


Online course design

September 30, 2007

Dr. Lowell’s post here discusses teachers’  views on online courses . Many teachers don’t like  online courses and say that they are more difficult and feel that the teacher is not there for support. This feeling of being lefte alone is a function of the manner in which the course in implemented.

Distance education via the internet is still a new concept and many instructors teach the courses as new fangled correspondence courses. The teacher give you some papers to write and you write them and get your grade. Using this scenario little interaction occurs with the instructor or other students in the class, this often causes students o feel that distance classes are more difficult that normal classes.

Teachers are often between a rock and a hard place when designing online courses. Engagement all comes down to the student teacher ration, teachers must be able to interact with students and provide feedback on their work. With a 100:1 ratio the teacher must use tools to gauge learning that are time efficient so they can teach that many students.

Technology is not the magic bullet, just as in real life unless money is placed into education so that teacher to student ratio is lowered teachers must use what they have to get by. The sacrifice that occurs by using tools to get by is a diminished amount of interaction and feedback between the teacher and student.


September 30, 2007

The following quote from Standard————————————–Lesson Plan

Peaked my interest about planning for classes and how planning and instruction work together.

Another thing that we need to do is consider the temper of our class when we are writing those highly detailed lesson plans and including all those standards as required in Kentucky. Classes don’t all have the same personality and what works for one may not work for another. Bridging this gap requires being very knowledgeable in your area and flexible enough to come at a topic in a variety of ways, sometimes at a moment’s notice.

Perspective varies based upon what level of the educational system that you work at. Teachers recognize that instruction does need to be flexible based upon class dynamics. Administrators’ perspective focus upon large group delivery by multiple instructors so they see the world in systems of objectives  that all of the students need to learn.

Teachers are required to write in depth lesson plans to satisfy the administration but really good teacher will be dynamic in the classroom based upon the class needs just as the quotation says.

So should we continue to require teachers to write lesson plans? I think so but they could be a lot less in depth so teachers will feel that they can be dynamic in the classroom based upon group dynamics.

Engagement in the classroom

September 29, 2007

You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink is an often heard cliche. Teachers in classrooms around the world face a similar conundrum, how to get students to become active learners in the classroom and engage in learning.

Our brains evolved as organic problem solving computers which allowed us to solve problems in our environment to survive, something new in the animal world. Due to this,  new information gets into the brain when presented in ways that work best based upon  our mental wiring. Games when stripped of all of their flare are using presenting  problems to us in a manner that works well with our problem solving “wiring”. The graphics help but seriously folks, would pong have been a hit based solely upon its graphics?  The challenge of continual problem solving is what keeps everyone coming back.

Teaching needs to plan based upon these ideas. Challenge students since we are set up biologically to deal with the world in a problem solving manner to develop new mental constructs.

Impressive video

September 29, 2007

This video shows a cool new networking technology that really blows me away.

The reason that it is so easy to pay attention to the video is that you are working with new information that the video is giving you, you cannot sit passively. My head was spinning working out new ways that this service will change the world. For example you could take a picture with your camera with internet access google the image and find out all kinds of information about whatever you would like to know, just another use of the hive information that the Internet allows.

But back to the video. You see Aguera y Arcas but he is not just standing up there drolly lecturing about a topic. He is directing a guided tour about the software and is showing examples of what the technology can do, far from just using the channel of speech to communicate his views. The presenter could have been on the other side of the world since the focus of the video was not on seeing him but on observing the capabilities of the video.

This application demonstrates that the interlinking of media via the Internet can open really amazing possibilities. I don’t think that you could achieve the same effect with a scrap book of pictures and a Rolodex of pictures;)
This application is really cool because it shows the new permutations that technology is allowing that people would not have dreamed of 10 years ago. What will this this technology kick off? Who knows.

Whiteboard for a group

September 27, 2007

After reading Lecture-Ware – How Effective Can it Be? I started looking to see what was out there if I just googled around for a while and I found this online white board. It is called scriblink and seems like it would be more effective than video lecture since the student would have to interact on the white board. It could be utilized like a chat but instead of typing all of the participants could also draw to express ideas and interact. I wonder if teaching would turn into pictionary?:)

And best of all it is free!!!!!!

Technology is still just the tool.

September 27, 2007

After reading Video Camera Off; Teaching On and the bashing that video lectures take in the article demonstrates that bad instruction is still bad instruction. We have all had teachers that are as boring as watching paint dry when they lecture, and we have all came away with bad experiences from those classes.

Good instruction usually requires the learner to do something and work with the information to become part of their body of knowledge. A majority of lectures that do not require interaction or action on the learners part quickly disinterest and frustrate most learners. When you add the problems that technology can present to limit interaction via lag time or connectivity issues and you have a recipe for an ineffective learning environment.

Technology is not the band aid for poor instruction.

Making the switch

September 23, 2007

I think I am making the switch. I am finally seeing how the tools that I use are all fitting together to make a complete picture.

Today while looking at, one of the web 2.0 news services, I saw this article on a new scientific discovery and got an idea. The article discusses the recent discovery of conclusive proof that the raptors actually had feathers. The feathers on raptor fossils are significant from a scientific standpoint because it provides evidence that dinosaurs were the predecessors of modern day birds.

A great way to introduce this lesson would be to use multimedia to show students the current view of raptors. Film clips from Jurassic Park or shows on the Discovery channel such as Walking with Dinosaurs from youtube could activate students’ prior knowledge of dinosaurs.

With the use of a tool such as webslides, students could then view the web site with the article or link to the primary source of the research. The students could view the websites with annotations by the teachers to support the students’ current level of understanding of the material or add additional information or questions to enhance the instruction.

Students could then work in their groups to discuss their findings to their peers. This would allow students to come to their own conclusions from the information that they are presented. The assessment could be the presentation of their findings and conclusions via a posting to the class website or some other tool that would allow them to present what new ideas they synthesized and not a high tech presentation with little to no substance.

Students would work in the same manner that other scientists around the world are by looking at the new data from research. The article was posted on the 20th of this month, two days ago, and students could be researching about the discovery tomorrow the 23rd. This changing of ideas also illustrates to students the way in which scientific knowledge changes and gets refined in light of new information from researchers.

So could this lesson be taught without computer technology? Absolutely but technology allows the instruction to be much more fluid and connected. The teacher could run off all the articles, write on them and make copies for the class, but the exchange of information would likely not be as fluid.

Another point that should be made is that sound research supports the techniques used to teach this way. Lev Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development is easily accommodated by designing the instruction just beyond the level that students are working by choosing resources and adding annotations using the webslides application. Vygotsky also stated that language levels are aided by students’ exposure to vocabulary. Reading articles from the field of interest definitely exposes students to vocabulary. Gerome Bruner spiral curriculum could also be accommodated with teaching in this manner since every student can learn something each time the topic is revisited. High school students could learn on a different level about the article on raptors just on a different level as the middle school or elementary students.

I know this post is long winded but when I saw the article on digg I was struck with some ideas that all seemed to fall into place using this cool article about dinosaurs.

The next question is, could I teach this way with technology? The answer is regrettably no. My school has a computer a lab, but not enough to accommodate my classes.

We teachers are a superstitious lot

September 22, 2007

How have teachers became so proficient at fooling themselves as to what works in education?Maybe it is due to the history of our educational system; we have learned what we do know about teaching due to war and industry. Teach the group of interest to do this and get them out the door. Today it is not that easy since the majority of jobs require individuals who can think and solve complex problems, problems that mere memorization of facts will not help them solve.

The job of educating others is difficult for numerous reasons. Teachers cannot get into the heads of others so, the only way that teachers are able to determine what is working in their instruction and what is not working is with the use of assessment such as tests, quizzes and other assessment tools. The picture that the assessments paint for teachers can often be incomplete and due to the incomplete pictures that assessment gives us, teachers form opinions about what works in instruction and what does not. This incomplete picture comes from the lack of really good assessment tools often used by teachers. Multiple choice tests from test bank questions provided by the text book companies really don’t test learning well, but they do test memorization skills.

So why do teachers operate this way? In my humble opinion I believe that it comes from the way that many teachers are educated and used to being educated. From my observations, people often teach the way that they learn best. It’s a comfort thing. During most teacher education programs, the focus is on classroom management, writing lesson plans and producing a “pretty” portfolio. Due to large class sizes for most teachers, the first few years of teaching are more about keeping the students under control and quiet and then concentrating on instruction. And before anyone begins flaming me, I know that there are exceptions and speaking in broad statements often requires removing your foot from your mouth later.  😉

During this treading water phase, teachers then develop ideas that are incorrect such as learning styles and mindedness and other fallacies that permeate education. Educational research and communication between teachers holds the key to dispelling these myths that teachers hold in their mind and purvey to other new teachers.

I began thinking about this topic after reading Dr. Lowell’s post here dealing with myths that have come to light in my distance education class. Hopefully, in the future, technology may act as a tool to alleviate some of the teachers’ work load so that they can use more of their time to contribute to the refining of how to teach best based upon research instead of just maintaining as we have done for such a long period of time.


September 22, 2007

I found  a new neat presentation tool called webslides.  Check it out here

There is a short you-tube video on the web page but basically you can make a slide show out of web pages bundle them together and annotate them. Then you can share your annotations with others or keep them private for you own viewing.

This seems like it is a tool that could be used in all kinds of interesting manners. I could imagine taking web quests to that next level by adding additional comments or requests to the web pages used in a web quest.

Webslides could also be extremely useful if a group wants to discuss and debate information that they are all reading over the internet, and the list goes on and on.

Give it a shot and see what you think.