Thursday, June 02, 2005

Been gone for awhile

I haven't blogged for awhile. I'm not sure why really - I guess the end of the semester can really be too much sometimes. I've also been traveling alot - but those are just excuses. I haven't been as inspired by blogging as I was in the begining (as is the fact when most things start) and now I realize that even though Blogging shouldn't be a chore, it is good for me to set goals for blogging different things. So hopefully with that in mind, no classes this summer, and a handy widget called Dash Blog on Tiger - I may actually write more :)

Friday, April 08, 2005

Yet another test

Our current educational structure revolves around testing - for good or for bad. When I was a student it was the all important SAT. Today's students (and teachers and parents) are concerned with EOGs (End of Grade Testing) as well as SATs and AP exams. Some say they "level" the playing field for acceptance to college, others argue that we are teaching our students to just be better test takers. Yet, another test has been created and will soon be implemented by the ETS (Educational Testing Service) - the Information and Communication Technology literacy assessment. As discussed in thie Wired article.

The test is an interesting progression from not only previous standardized tests. It is trying to assess "How does one go about finding the answers to a computer related problem?" not just find the answer itself.

The corporate world currently has several computer tests already implemented. One of which I was oh so fortunate to take when applying for work at a temp agency. It was an interactive test that would ask where I might find a particular menu item and then I was to click on it. Now, I am no memorization queen, but I can find something through a series of a deductions. Unfortunately, the HR test only gave me one chance and although I did well I was still disheartened by the experience.

It appears that the ETS test is more progressive than the HR test I discussed previously. It will be looking at how many steps and what search tools were used to find an answer. This provides a better insight into someone's technical ability than any assessment I can currently think of. I feel that that is a true marker of success in technology - understanding how to find the answer when you don't know something and not being afraid to try different approaches (see previous gamer post).

I am concerned about preparing our students for a world where computers and technology are commonplace. Yet, I am torn. Do we really want to implement another test? Just because it takes someone a while to get an answer - should that really matter if it is the right answer. Is technological literacy something we can really test and would we ever want to?

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Afraid of Red Ink

Run...Run...away - its the dreaded red ink?!?!

Schools are starting to BAN red ink. It apparently has too many negative connotations and parents are in an uproar. This is once again another example of parents believing that they are the authority on what is educational. Now I am the first to admit that I am 1)Currently without children (in school or otherwise) and 2) A parochial schooled individual. I believe that parental involvement in a child's education is of the utmost importance. Understanding what subjects they are struggling in, when their projects are due, what type of homework load is expected, what grades they are getting, etc.

I have worked in several different school that have had varying degrees of parental involvement - but the minute you believe that it is in the best interest of your child to go against a teacher or a school, you need to take a second look. Now, I am not naive enough to believe that there are no bad teachers, but you need to let teacher's teach. Undermining a teacher's authority is not making your child's life any easier. It is not helping them. I see more and more students on the college level not turn in assignments and then threaten to bring the professor in front of the dean for not passing them. They have a mindset that they can get out of anything, and not take responsibility for their actions. They have even had their parents call the college. I would be embarrassed at the age of 20 to need my parents to call my teacher.

The banning of red pens for god sake! What will be next, pencils are dangerous projectiles, the use of blue paint is too depressing or heaven forbid teacher's should be banned from wearing black because it makes them look too mean and old?!!!!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

It's no all

I feel quite introspective lately. I'm not sure what it is - I keep blaming it on the time change though :). I've been trying (like so many people) to figure out what my path is in life. I have always been on two ends of the philosophy spectrum - its either "make your own destiny" and plan to the hilt or "its the journey, not the destination" and go with the flow. So that means I'm permanently between a rock and a hard place - trying to plan and having it not work out and try and go with the flow.

I've read a few books that have added to my current stage of introspectiveness (or as my friends call it - "being in a funk") - the most influential of which is "The Dive from Clauseen's Pier." It was quite a moving novel, but it moved me in ways I'm not sure I can comprehend yet. It asks the question, "How much do we owe the people we love?" When do we have to choose between ourselves and our families, and in choosing one or the other are we in essence hurting both.

I have never made any excuses for the choices I have made in my life, and I have never considered them to be "sacrifices." I think the minute I consider it a sacrifice, it is a selfish choice and I am choosing to be a martyr - and I don't want to be that.

I guess what this is coming down to is that I am in my mid-twenties and am at a crossroads in my life. It may not seem like it to most, but I feel like I need to make some decisions instead of letting everything happen to me. I feel surrounded by friends that are living the life I want but am afraid to have. How can you want something so badly and when you finally get it - not want it anymore?

It all comes down to "What do I want to do with my life?" I been lucky in my life to happen upon good situations and have worked hard to live up to them. Yet, I need a direction, a goal that I am striving to achieve. Things are culminating and I need to make a decision and I feel I will be sacrificing something no matter what I do. I understand that we all make sacrifices in life, men as well as women, yet it doesn't make them any easier to make.

I guess I want it all; a career, a family, a house, a comfortable life. I'm not naive enough to think that I can have it all, I'm just having a hard time deciding what to sacrifice.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Video Gaming and Education

Well it all is becoming a full circle - and its freaking me out a little. I have been fortunate enough to have some of the strangest positions (including the one I am in now). Trust me, normal people don't have my resume - and although I think of it as a good thing, some people do not.

Besides all the internships (Wall Street - trust me I'll get into that later), odd summer jobs (tying strings on plastic pumpkins - don't ask) and well I won't go into any more. I essentially started my career as a High School teacher. I loved teaching high school, but circumstances beyond my control - i.e. my husband got a new job, moved me to Baltimore. I believe in the theory that "everything happens for a reason" and to go with the flow. So in our new city I decided to try private sector education. Now I did not want to end up teaching Microsoft Office the rest of my life, so I looked at unique small companies. Little did I know that Baltimore was a "hotbed" of software companies, specifically video game ones.

So I ended up working at a company that supported and tested video games and educational software. We also dabbled in other software/hardware companies, i.e. pretty much anyone that would pay us, but I essential taught people how to fix computers and play video games.
(Don't ask me why I left :)

Now, this becomes full circle thanks to Tim Wilson and David Warlick who have both written about the video game generation recently. So my quirky background is actually going to do me some good!

If none of you have ever played video games, and I mean real video games (Solitaire does not count) you should really check their links out. We talk a good deal about the computer generation, but video games is an entirely different beast. And its not just the terminology, it is how they go about everything they do. I had to learn to move beyond the - "What server on Everquest do you play on?" and understand the roleplaying nature and flow of these games.

The biggest similarity that all video games have in common is trial and error. They are not afraid of failing - as long as they can try again. And yet we as teachers are so afraid of them failing and not getting it right on the first try. When do we ever in any workplace get anything right the first time! They are willing to take chance and push boundaries, yet I see us putting up fences and directing them.

The company I worked for had such a different emagalmation of employees, some that were good students, so that were not. Yet, their commonality was not just a passion for video games, but one for problem solving. I learned early on that they need to "play" with the program. To make it fail and see why it happened. I could give them guidelines or parameters, but every "failure" was going to be different. They had a drive to see why things worked the way they did and an inherent need to fix a problem.

Anyways, I think problem solving, creative thinking, and having a hypothesis that may turn out to be wrong, are all things we shouldn't be afraid of having our students explore.

When did we get so scared of the unknown?

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Livin' La Vida Robot

It is amazing what students can accomplish when you believe in them. I believe that is why everyone loves the movies "Stand and Deliver" or "Dangerous Minds." Believing in kids and then having them accomplish something so beyond anything you ever hoped for is a teacher's dream.

The latest addition of Wired has an article on four high school students in Phoenix, AZ that built a robot. And they didn't just build any robot. They built an underwater robot for a NASA competition for under $800! Now that may not impress most of you - but when MIT enters the same event with corporate sponsorship and a budget of $11,000 - it makes a difference.

But lets move beyond the fact that a bunch of high school students BEAT MIT in a robotic competition. Lets even go beyond the fact that these students are from a poor disadvantaged area of Phoenix. These students were given hope - a hope that they haven't had before. They are all Mexican non-documented high school students that are trying to make it in a society and a country that does not welcome them.

That is what we should be giving our students, rich or poor, ESL or ADD - we should be giving them the belief in themselves that they can accomplish anything they want to do. And the best way to do that is to have them ACTUALLY accomplish something they are good at. It was the teamwork, the teachers and the sense of accomplishing something that was bigger than themselves that gave them hope.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Video Conferencing - hailing in the year 2005

This may be my first post on video conferencing in education, but it certainly won't be my last.

I grew-up in a seriously geeky family - shocking I know - that sat around and watched Star Trek- The Next Generation at the dinner table. We are officially receiving a hail and putting it on the big screen.

Video conferencing is currently my little pet project (although blogging may soon replace it :) As you can probable tell, I am a big proponent of technology in education - but only when it actually IMPROVES the educational experience.

I see video conferencing as a way that we can bring students together that may not have the opportunity to otherwise. Students from rural areas are getting to meet "city folk" and discovering that they are not that different - and vice versa. Pre-service teachers are observing classrooms and discussing student and teacher behavior. Collaborations are jumping up all over the place from researchers, to faculty, to businessmen and women. A new communication boom is coming and we need to be ready for it.

But yet it goes farther than that. There are programs like Megaconference and Megaconference Jr. that bring students and educators from all over the globe together to learn about new technologies, or share information about their homeland. We have finally gotten to the point where these virtual meetings are not only possible but probable.

There is a good deal of technology available for video conferencing - from the $50 to the $5000 variety all of which have their positive and negatives. I have given a few presentations on this topic (recently at NCAECT), but Wesley Freyer covers it indepthly in his recent article for "Technology & Learning" which he references in his blog. He was also nice enough to mention myself and some of the webpages I have worked on in his most recent post.

I hope to talk more on the subject soon. I have a few trials with a Middle school coming up so cross your fingers.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

New "tools" for communication

I have read a few blogs lately that have referenced how much they wish teachers would blog more often. They see blogging and RSS feeds as a way to facilitate communication between teachers, parents, and students. Now the idea of having a Homework RSS feed does excite me a bit, but the idea of using that forum to keep track of daily activities worries me a bit.

It reminds me of a job I had where my boss had a micro-managing problem, and I had to send a daily activity report. I hated it more than life itself. Having a website with an outline of what is to be covered is one thing, but a daily blog on what transpired is another. I know that "accountability" is the buzz word of the moment, yet I don't believe this is the right way to go about it.

Blogging (and I'm including RSS) in itself is not an end-all be-all tool. It is a useful tool, but a larger part of a bigger communication stream. There is still something to be said about personal e-mails, phone calls and parent-teacher conferences.

I mean all the personal, hand written, Thank You notes my mother made me write has to be worth something!?!?!!

Growth through Blogging

I am completely honored that a dear friends of mine, and as I am now finding out "a name" in the world of blogging. Has referenced my blog. I feel completely overwhelmed by this. Especially since I was very concerned over my last post.

I think the thing about blogging that scares me the most is putting a piece of myself out there and INVITING other people to comment on it. The inner nerd inside of me is freaking out at the concept of asking people to dis me. And yet, as I have come to understand, it is more about sharing and growing - partially through debate, but more by questioning. If we never get personal - we will never grow.

So I promise to never get too personal, but I won't be afraid of it as much either.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

History Repeating Itself

There is a solemn vibe in the air today. I can tell that everyone has the shootings in Minnesota on their minds. It is something we all fear and want to prevent, and yet... Most of my teaching friends were new teachers when Columbine happened, and it is something that never leaves you - is in the back of your mind - fear of your students. We have all felt it and wondered if one would cross the line.

There is a very poiniant movie titled "Bang, Bang, You're Dead," that touches on this issue for several different perspectives. I know there are a good deal of movies that touch on the subject, "Elephant" for example. Yet, this movie struck a cord with me. It wasn't about blame, it was about hope. Tom Cavanagh must have had some incredible high school teachers, for his acting is truly inspired and represents what it means to care for your students and to go out on a limb for them. Which is sometimes all they need.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

The greys of blogging

I like to consider myself on top of technology, I even fancy myself a geek girl of sorts. So, the fact that it has taken me so long to "discover" blogging is a bit embarrassing. Nevertheless, when I do find a new technology it is hard for me to keep quiet about it. For the past few weeks I have been inflicting on my friends and family my passion for this new technology and how it will change education. I had come across a great blog called hipteacher and was discussing it with my friends at lunch when I realized that they were completely appalled by the idea. "How could a teacher discuss such intimate details about her students and place them on the Internet?" I am torn by their response. I'd like to believe in the anonymity of the Internet, but the users of it are human, and therefore fallible. We have smart students and to believe that they would never figure out who you are is a bit naive. Or is it? Does she risk injuring her students to blog about her own failings and issues? and if so is it worth it? When we place something in a public forum, such as the internet, what responsibilities do we undertake for that is well? Is she breaking a trust with her students? I myself am still trying to come to terms with it....

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

If you never re-invent the wheel does it go flat?

It is an interesting notion that you teach the way you were taught. Not the way you are taught to teach, but emulating your teachers in high school. Why is that our comfort level? Why do we fall back on that? It is hard to comprehend that the teacher's we loved may not have been good educator, or their style is not conducive to today's classrooms. How can we make that paradigm shift within a current or future teacher?

What inspires us?

I have been fortunate enough to be active in "the outside world" lately, i.e. outside of my triangle shaped office, and have been struck by many things - most of which I have posted already. But what I keep coming back to is that its nit necessarily the ideas that inspire me, but the people that believe them. In fact, if I think back on the moments in my life it is the people that I remember. It is apiring to be like them that motivates me to return to school, or create a project or even to just go to work. It is meeting people like David Warlick and seeing someone that truly believes that educators can and are capable of being the best teachers in the world. It is remembering my mentor from my first year of teaching, who inspired me to connect with my students and put in as much as effort as humanly possible. It is my brother who inspired me to become a teacher in the first place. As excited I get about new ideas - it is really the people that inspire me to use these ideas.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

EYH (Expanding Your Horizons)

Now that I am no longer in the classroom, I truly cherish the opportunities I have to work with students. Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) is a program run at the university I work at. It is a wonderful program that invites 7th grade girls from all over our state and encourages and promotes women in science. Female scientists and science educators hold workshops for the girls that are not only science in nature, but are also good models of women in science. I had a wonderful time not only interacting with the students, but also getting that exhilirating feeling of teaching someone and having them understand. When that lightbulb goes off - it is such an amazing experience. Sometimes, I truly do miss it.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

North Carolina AECT Conference

I had the opportunity to present at this year's NCAECT conference and I had no idea how much I would enjoy it! Not just the presenting aspect, but the conference itself. I learned so much and have some new favorite people in the Educational Technology World. Kathy Shrock is such an innovative user of technology. She has some of the most logical creative ideas I have ever seen in integrating technology. I think I want to be her when I grow up :)

I happened to also attend a workshop with David Warlick. I am continuially amazed by his ability to not only lead a workshop, but a discussion. He truly has the gift to make everyone feel like they are the most important person in the room, while at the same time having some pretty thought provoking ideas. He had a very free-flowing session on Plagarism and some ways to combat it in our system and how we as teacher's really have to focus on ourselves being proper models.

You know that it is a great conference when you are still brimming with ideas a week later!