Monday, 27 February 2012 1 comments

Professionalism in the Classroom

"I feel that if we don't use social media in the classroom, we are doing a disservice to our students."
-- from the Professional Advisory: Electronic Communication, Social Media from Ontario College of Teachers video found on YouTube

In the Professional Advisory video, it speaks about the pros and cons of using social media in the classroom. It really speaks to how I/we have learned as teacher candidates in Zoe Branigan-Pipe's technology course here at Brock University.  

My life as a student felt as though the teacher were teaching how they preferred to teach. Nowadays, it feels like we have a shift towards teaching how students learn, through differentiation and modifications, and technology certainly has its place in that. The video recognizes that students do use technology as a mode of communication, so why don't we cater to their strengths and what they might use on a regular basis? 

Like I've reflected earlier, I really want to incorporate technology and use it as an asset - not something separate to be touched from time to time, and not something used every lesson and every time to the point of exhaustion. Technology can be used as a way of students to communicate their learning; technology can be used as a mode of teaching. Using social media is a fantastic way to collaborate, to share, and while it does come with the necessity of teaching netiquette and professionalism, this is a small leap to really making a classroom integrated.

Building Futures

 Image from here.

Way back (what it feels like) in January, Building Futures visited the Brock University Hamilton campus for a professional development day. There was an assortment of workshops that we could attend, and our gift for the day was: a USB memory stick. I found it ironic that my first post, all about how memory keys are so 2000 had come around full circle, with a gift of a USB stick to place all the Powerpoint presentations we were to be seeing that day.

The first workshop I attended was Laying the Foundation for Effective Instruction in Literacy, while the last workshop focused on Assessment, Evaluation and Reporting in Ontario Schools: Policy and Implementation. I selected these particular workshops since English is my teachable and because I knew I had to tweak my assessment and evaluation knowledge and techniques.

The differences between these two workshops was night and day. The Effective Instruction in Literacy focused on working in groups, writing things down on chart paper, watching video clips and reflecting on them, and looking at official documents on literacy and numeracy. In comparison, the Assessment workshop did have a Powerpoint, but the speaker decided to focus on just conversing with us and having a nice, clear-cut discussion. Both of them had their uses - the video clips provided real-life examples of how effective instruction was used in the classroom, while just discussing allowed us to have an open forum to ask questions and really get to the heart of the matter. 

It is interesting, because I found the one that did not rely so much on technology more worthwhile; perhaps showing that technology can be used as an asset, but it might not always be needed. At the end of the Assessment workshop, the instructor said, "These slides are useful, so you can always download them after this workshop", so it was a bit of a 'souvenir' that we could take away with us. 

Overall, this was a useful Professional Development Day and I know that in the future I will try to find more opportunities to attend and really establish and find my way in the Professional Learning Community.

Sunday, 26 February 2012 0 comments

It's eBook time!

As an assignment for tech, we were asked to create an eBook on any topic our choosing. The first thing that shouted out to me was surprisingly the guitar, and I jumped on that inspiration as soon as I could. The marvelous things about eBooks is that they are open to such a wide variety of topics and can be used in seemingly limitless ways. 

There are a number of online platforms that can be used to create an eBook, but for this task I chose SlideRocket for its ease of use, and especially because I had already used it when creating my TPACK journey. Having previous knowledge about how to embed images, sounds, and videos into a project, all I had to do is ensure that everything was given credit where credit was due!

From creating this artifact, I learned that eBooks can be a fantastic modelling tool for a teacher to use in the classroom, and it is not difficult to create - all you really need is a topic and a focus. As well, it can be integrated into a multitude of disciplines: a eBook on the first day of school to introduce yourself to the class, for instance; it can be used in Language Arts as a digital portfolio of written works or a favourite story; it can be used as a 'show and tell' method if younger grades have technology incorporated into it; or as a way for older students to share stories with younger grades for reading buddies.

In the case of my eBook, it targets the Language Arts and Music curriculum the most. I decided to focus on the guitar and what it means to me, as well as briefly explaining the instrument instrument, which fits into the Music component. However, I also chose to write out my eBook in a poetry format, which goes along with Language Arts. I chose a particular voice and point of view, as well as sentence structure. 

Without further ado, here is my eBook!

I could definitely see myself using eBooks both as a modelling tool and as an option for students to share their work as a presentation. In terms of this particular eBook, I could use it in music class to demonstrate how a particular instrument makes me feel as well as share songs that I enjoy, and then invite them to choose their favourite instrument and tell the class about it. Or, I could use it language arts class to share a poetry about any topic (in this case, guitar), and invite them to create a poem or story in eBook format.

Since I love reading books, I found it a joy to create an electronic version of one and would love to use this in my future classroom!
Thursday, 9 February 2012 1 comments

tools to learn

Part of my philosophy of education is to integrate technology in a way that it's not a "special section" but something that's included in almost every aspect of my classroom. Because of that, I'm using Bitstrips to create my philosophy of education. I have now completed it (take a look here), but through this process it has just confirmed my love of that learning tool and how that object can be used in a great variety of ways. 

Every Teacher in Ontario has access to, and an account with, Bit Strips - a tool where you can create your own comics based on your learning goals and lessons, and where students can join the online community/class to create their own for consolidating their learning as well.

A screencap of my classroom from my previous block - I have a pirate hat because I'm Miss R!

BitStrips is a fabulous tool to introduce to your class - it helps visual learners, ELL learners, and is a great way to 'summarize' learned concepts and Big Ideas through the creation of comic strips. For more information, take a look at this slideshow created by Zoe's tech class (collaboration for the win!) and take a look at more learning tools you can incorporate into your classroom!

Wednesday, 8 February 2012 0 comments

the benefits of edublogs

Note: My Edublog can be found here!

I've been a writer of personal blogs since the age of twelve or thirteen over a variety of platforms, so I assumed that creating a blog for the classroom wouldn't be an immediate challenge. However, as soon as I finished my "welcome to your classroom blog!" post, I found myself hesitant. What kind of voice do I use? was the first question that came to mind. What content should I have? was the second question. Would I really use this as a teacher? was the overall question that hovered in my brain as I created this 'role-play.' 

Developing my voice was certainly an individual learning experience that helped me analyse how I would present myself both in the classroom and online to my students, as well as how I would want to communicate with parents/guardians. I also had to make a shift from talking about myself (the theme of most of my personal blogs) to orienting around material learned in the classroom, fulfilling curriculum expectations, and creating open discussion and opportunities for critical thinking. The main thing I learned is that I would want my classroom blog to encourage comments rather than be something merely read, thus encouraging that web 2.0 mindset.

As well, I would want the classroom blog to be a place to "archive" any handouts that I would give out, similar to how Sakai operates. This is mostly because of personal experience - I have a horrible time sorting out papers properly and constantly misplace handouts, and that way students could easily access materials. In a way, this technology could be applied to my own teaching purposes because I would have those blackline masters readily available online rather than referring to a physical portfolio/filing cabinet. Most of all, having a new classroom blog each year and keeping the one before would be an amazing way to track progress and see how my teaching has developed and how students/parents react to the blog each year. 

The fantastic things about blogs is that they can be integrated in multiple disciplines; specifically as an educator, you could have a blog created from specific courses - a Language Arts blog for instance, with all the intermediate teachers blogging about various tools/strategies to be used in the classroom. It's a great tool for collaboration and for educators to network and share experiences and talk about issues. 

Overall, I could definitely see myself using a classroom blog in the future, but it would be dependent on two things: the school environment and knowing if a majority of the students have access to the Internet aside from school, and if I would have the time to update it on a regular basis! 

Wednesday, 1 February 2012 0 comments

there's an app for that

Dr. Ruth McQuirter-Scott spoke of the ultimate dilemma of Language classes to us today - the importance of vocabulary within the curriculum and in the classroom. Spelling tests can only go so far; I remember memorizing the list and only remembering half of the words once the test was over and done with. With information and content moving at such an alarming rate, it's become crucial and a personal mission of mine to have a classroom that doesn't necessarily "test" but goes over the content in an engaging manner so that the students will walk away with something more than, "Oh, I for sure aced that test!" 

Fortunately for teachers of the digital age, there's an app for that. Dr. McQuirter-Scott provided us with a three-page list of apps to use in the classroom, ranging from free to a few dollars and that range from a variety of topics with an emphasis on vocabulary. Instead of making learning new words a chore, these apps are designed to have that 'fun' component while still teaching at the same time. Perhaps it could also change that hesitance of seeing iPods in our class if apps such Build a Word, Grammar Dragon (there's dragons!), or Words Shaker HD were used on a steady basis.

There almost doesn't seem to be enough time to investigate all of these apps. If only there was an app for adding extra hours in a day!

Monday, 23 January 2012 0 comments

using blogs in the classroom

Being an avid online journaler for over ten years, the benefits of using a blog in the classroom are seemingly endless, with the pros outweighing the cons. It's a concise way to outline what the year will look like, dive deeper into subjects and their assignments, make "personal" goals for the class and discuss a variety of topics. 

Blogs can successfully model web 2.0 by having students comment on posts rather than simply read. It's a perfect way to keep track of expectations and rubrics for students who are prone to misplacing papers (ahem, I was and still am that kind of student). For those parents who might be hesitant to show up to the school barbeque, a classroom blog is a perfect way for parents to see what their students are learning, what homework is due (if updated regularly), and hopefully establish a connection between the teacher and parent.

Of course, there's the cons of: (a) will the blog be updated regularly or be left by the wayside [kind of like this one was], which is why it should be introduced as early as possible; (b) will students really have access to it, particularly if they don't have a home computer? Those are the two major ones that come to mind, though I'm sure there are a few more. 

Honestly though, the greatest benefit for me would be that it would chronicle my teaching journey: where my classes have been and where they are going, to see what worked and what needs to be improved on, and to truly utilize TPACK throughout my future career.