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!