Final Reflections – Bitter Sweet

I think back to the journey that began six weeks ago. Six weeks. I remember walking into the classroom and being nervously excited for what I was heading into. I found a spot and got situated. The clock struck 8:30 and apparently it was time for recess? A dance party at 8:30 in the morning? What was that all about? What was I getting myself into? We definitely were not in Kansas anymore and if the dance party was a sign of what’s to come I knew I was in for quite the ride. Looking at the faces of my classmates, I was comforted that I was not alone in my apprehensions. I told myself to keep an open mind and just ride it out and ride it out I did.

I thought I was fairly tech savvy before I began this journey, but that first quickfire told me otherwise. It set the pace of the entire program and I placed my confidence in working hard and an open minded attitude. I jumped in and took everything that was thrown at me. It wasn’t always pretty and there were many times I was confused, lost, and at times at the brink of giving up. There were times I doubted myself when all my confidence, energy, and clarity escaped me, I turned around and my newly formed PLN boosted my spirits. It was easy to be excited and re-energized when working alongside such passionate people. We struggled together and braved the storm together, even when there were moments of hopelessness. We collectively struggled but continued on the journey we set out to travel. We quickly developed a camaraderie and it seemed that we were moving together as one unit, making sure that no man or woman was left behind.

When I began this journey I was driven, passionate, and hungry to gather more tools and resources for my educational toolbox. I understood the need for technology in education but defined technology in typical ways. I couldn’t see past what something was created for and I felt removed from the technology of my students. I was closed off to things like Twitter and failed to see the possibilities and potentials of some of these resources. I didn’t realize that technology would open up so many avenues and opportunities for me and my students. I wanted big things, but felt limited and lost in the sea of resources. All that is gone and everything is much different now.

In six weeks, I have learned to look at the possibilities of technology rather than its limitations. I learned to perceive situations as if there were no box. I am no longer removed from the technology of my students and have not only embraced Twitter, but have discovered better practices for it. I learned to question how I could repurpose something to fit into my educational practices and I learned how to expand my educational tools to better utilize technology. I know where to look, who to reach out to, and I am confident that the possibilities are endless. I still want big things and will continue to dream big for my students and it is great to know that I have gained a supportive community who will continue to journey with me through the many experiences to come. To my MAET family, I thank you for your continual support, encouragement, guidance, and the spirit to be the change in a much needed time. I hope for big things for all of us, knowing full well that we will accomplish great things.

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Being a Tech Leader

Me, as a tech leader…

Initiative – I can make the initiative to try to find areas in existing lessons and activities where I can incorporate technology meaningfully. I can also create new lessons and activities. On a larger scale, I can discuss things with other teachers about incorporating technology into their teaching practices.

Informed – Being informed about all the technology out there is important. What technologies are being repurposed for education and how are people using technology in education? My PLN will definitely come in handy. I need to stay in the know and the up and up in regards to technology. 

Knowledgeable – From all that information, there are certain areas that I will want to become knowledgeable in. I think of this as the teacher-researcher stage where I conduct research to get to know more about that one area. I will also look to my PLN for this one as well.

Risk Taker – Sometimes you have to spread your wings and fly. From experience, I know there can also be more information to gather, but something you just have to go for it and test it out. This type of experiential learning opportunities is great and it you can figure out what works and what doesn’t.

Accessible/Approachable – Being a tech leader doesn’t mean getting in people’s faces about whether they are using technology or how they are using it, but its making yourself accessible and approachable. One way I plan to do this is by creating a website where I talk about different tools and resources that are available. I am confident that I am genuinely an approachable and accessible person that it wouldn’t be too daunting for people to approach me about technology.

Supporter/Encourager – An important part of being a leader is to follow up with people. If someone asks for advice or help, I will shoot them an email or check in with them to see how things are. I will encourage people to keep at things when they run into frustrating situations. Technology can be extremely frustrating and it is nice to have a support team.

Model – The best way to be a tech leader is by living it out. I will show people what I do and then show them what my students do. Showing makes people believers.

 

Looking Back, Looking Forward

 

My Personal Learning Network was quite limited when I began this program. Having not had too many years under my belt, there weren’t many other avenues other than the ones I already knew about. This program changed all that. My PLN went Ka-Boom and now I can’t even keep up with it. The MAET people I have met have been so great to work with. The feedback and constructive ideas I get have been so beneficial to my learning. It is my PLN that helps me max out my potential. They even see the potential before I even know there is anything to work with. My sister has always had this saying, “use your resources.” She would say it all the time, even before I knew what resources were. That phrase has seeped into my life and its all about resources. While I don’t like to think about this way, there is a limit to what I can do by myself (I probably will never say this again). My PLN invigorates me and gives me the confidence to know that there is always a way. Remember that saying “where there’s a will, there’s a way”? Well, the will is definitely in me and its my PLN that shows me the way. I can do all things because of my PLN, its as simple as that.

So where do I/we go from here?

I will continue to be who I was before this journey and my expanded PLN will enhance who I will continue to be. There are certain areas I have become more passionate about and I will definitely dive deeper into those areas. I will most likely expand my PLN further as I begin to scratch the surface of those deep waters. One thing I have committed myself to since the beginning was to be mindful of my PLN. I wanted to make sure that my PLN was reflective of who I was. I didn’t want to have this big pool of members for the sake of numbers. I have continued to be mindful and in doing so I have developed respect and trust in my PLN. I definitely plan on teaching my students about Personal Learning Networks – what they are, how to use them, how to collaborate with them, and how to grow them. Our PLNs are one of our most important life lines.

Thank you to everyone who has helped shape this journey. We suffered together and we celebrated together. You have opened my eyes to so much and I am excited and encouraged to see where we all go from here. It has been quite the journey, hasn’t it? We can finally stop a moment to take a breath, but don’t stop for too long because our journey continues and somewhere we find ourselves at the start of another journey.

 

“Growing Up Online”

There is no denying that we live in a digital culture – smartphones, tablets, and I mean products like Leap for only $70. The film, Digital Nation, looked into the digital culture we live in and examined the risks and possibilities it brings. I love seeing all the possibilities that technology has presented us, but I also feel like it is drifting us away from some fundamentals. Take for instance the gaming culture where people rent chairs in an internet cafe for hours, days, and weeks. Everyone packed in a room like sardines is not healthy. Students are developing gaming addictions and some people are even dying from it. The gaming culture is sedentary and does not encourage movement. People sit and consume energy drinks because they can’t afford to sleep. Social skills are being replaced by netiquette and we are losing touch with the community of physical beings around us. Our communities are being replaced with virtual communities who we may never see face to face.

There are students in the world who go to school on the internet. They never need to leave home to go to school. Instead, they log into the network and listen to lectures, participate in experiments, and do their homework all through the internet. While the students are learning from specialized instructors and media, what about socialization? I can’t help but wonder what the digital culture is doing to our socialization.
We are a society of instant gratification. Whatever we need to find out, whatever we need, we can access through the internet in an instant. What we want, when we want. What does this do to community? What does this do for collaborating? I have met so many students who are not as socially mature because they have not had the social experience, even in high school. It is easy to hide behind the computer and go unnoticed. I have had students ask me if they could create an online presentation instead of presenting in front of the class because they have social anxiety. I can’t but wonder if there is a correlation between the amount of time students spend online and their level of social anxiety/distress. It would seem like there would be a correlation.
Whether we like it or not, we live in a digital age and our students are products of this digital culture. We can’t avoid it and we really need to utilize it, but we can’t rely on it. There are teachers who refuse to “buy into the technology fad.” Rude awakening: It is not a fad. You think smartphones are going somewhere? Only to be replaced by geniusphones, if ever. We are moving forward with technology. It is scary and exciting at the same time. Karle and Colleen’s string timeline of the internet comes to mind. I feel we are only just beginning and have yet to really tap into it. I think we are in the age of just realizing that there is an endless possibility in front of us. The not knowing is exciting to some and terrifying to others.
Bottom line is technology is changing our everyday lives. I no longer need a key to get in and out of my car or even drive my car. We have phones that talk back to us. We can access anything from anywhere. But walk into the classroom and everything still looks the same as it did in the prehistoric times prior to the internet. Internet/Technology has changed the way we think, process, and do things. We can’t afford to maintain things as they have been. We need to progress with the changes in time. One thing that keeps resonating over and over again is the idea of teaching students how to use technology efficiently, effectively, and responsibly. They are growing up with technology but not being taught how to use it and I think this is one of the most important things we need to tackle as teachers. We expect so much of our students. I’m guilty of it. I have questioned why my students who can find ways to unblock websites that the schools block, can’t conduct a fairly intermediate search of a research question.
Students learn how to do practical things on the internet because they learn through trial and error. They have been learning how to maneuver around blocked websites since grade school, but they have never been taught how to use the internet for education purposes. Other than typing up their papers, how have they truly utilized what the internet technology has to offer? They have yet to scratch the surface of the possibilities of the internet. The internet needs to be repurposed for their lives.
I remember the first day of class when I was told that I had to sign up for Twitter and use it for this class. I thought I had just entered an alternate universe. This concept was so foreign to me. I had only known Twitter as the medium for my students to tell each other random, unnecessary comments throughout their day. I could never conceive the idea of using Twitter for education purposes. I gave it a go and now I can’t even picture Twitter being used for any other purposes. That is what needs to be done with the internet and technology when it comes to our students. We need to repurpose it and demonstrate to them that there are so many other means and uses than they even know.
It’s an exciting time for education. It’s a challenging time, yes, but its also an exciting time because change is in front of us. I see the people who I have journeyed with this summer and I am excited to see all the change and innovation we will each bring to wherever we are. I have high hopes for all of us and I know we will wear the MAET with great pride.

Wicked Problems of Practice

A Bostonian had to have come up with the term “wicked problem,” right? I do love Boston. But I digress even before I begin…

Let’s start over and begin by quoting the brilliant Albert Einstein, who said “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” That quote encompasses and explains the concept of the Wicked Problem.

The reading explained how standard problem-solving approaches can contribute to great wickedness and I think this makes perfect sense. It also brings to mind what has been repeated throughout our face to face time. We must “think like there is no box.” We need creative and innovative troubleshooting skills as we work to improve those nasty wicked problems.

I feel like this “good enough” idea is becoming more and more prevalent in our education system, an area that is in dire need for must improvement. “Good enough” adds to the problem and in some ways is the reason why the problems continue to exist. Doesn’t “good enough” suggest that something is adequate for the circumstance? Is that what we are looking for in education? Adequate? I know that we can’t solve the Wicked Problems but I look at it in the same way I look at New Years Resolutions – you work towards something and you are better off at the end than when you began. Improvement. Isn’t that what we are all striving for?

It was/is a challenge for me to  think about a Wicked Problem I want to tackle. Without having a classroom to call home or to have much experience under my belt, most of my Wicked Problems are theoretical and there isn’t much for the practical understanding of the problem.

Wicked Problem: Raising awareness and teaching moral development, character education, and positive psychology.

Explanation

So many teachers have said that students are progressively getting worse in terms of morality and respect.  They show disregard for other people and things that do not belong to them. Student lack of respect for authority, their peers, and even for themselves seem to be escalating. This does not seem unique to the students and parents, teachers, administration all play a part. Somewhere along the way we lost the importance of being civic-minded, moral, healthy, respectful, and virtuous individuals who engage in community.

Key Emphasis

Maybe I should outline my ideas based on TPACK to make things easier and more concrete.

Technology

  • analyzing how technology is currently being used to promote or hinder moral practices
  • generating ideas and practicing how technology can be used to promote moral practices
  • using technology as a way to demonstrate real life instances
  • using technology as a way to practice and spread the word of right moral practices [making a difference]
  • creating and implementing a school campaign on a moral cause utilizing technology

Pedagogy

  • Higher-Order Thinking [transforming information and ideas]
  • Substantive Conversation [dialoguing, synthesizing, etc]
  • Student-Directed as well as practicing inclusivity & group identity
  • Active Citizenship [connecting students to their community]
  • Problem-Based Learning [illustrating -> teaching -> practicing -> reflecting] – school & community projects

Content

  • readings and excerpts about moral psychology/character education/positive psychology
  • information texts about non-profit organizations & engaged citizenship
  • videos, music, media scrutiny about their message

My concerns and how you can assist me…

As I write all this down, it feels like a lesson plan. There are so many great ideas swimming around in my head and I feel like because this is an area that I am really passionate about, I am getting a little lost and maybe getting overly zealous. The outcome I would like to have with this is to instill respect, ownership, and the belief that one person can make a difference in each student. Practically speaking I know that this problem will not go away and that it will be met with resistance, but that again is what a Wicker Problem is, correct? We can do something to try and make things a little bit better and that is where we start.

Thoughts? Ideas? Concerns? Hesitations? Anything will help! Thank you everyone!

Making Online Learning Better

When I think about online learning, I immediately think about e2020. In theory e2020 is an amazing online learning program supporting blended and virtual models, allowing teachers to individualize instruction to differentiate student needs; however, this does not translate in practice. I am not sure how other people have experienced e2020, but here is my experience with it in four different schools:

  • students walk into a computer lab and teacher tells them to continue working at their own pace and gives them an idea of where they should be
  • students get online and skim and skip through the instructional portions
  • students get to the assessment and try taking it using common sense
  • students check their scores and find out which ones they missed
  • students change the answers of the questions they missed
  • students check answers again and if passed, moves on. if not passed, attempts changing answers again

This is not the way education should work. So, how do you make e-learning meaningful? I am not sure if there is an exact answer or formula but here are some of the important elements of meaningful e-learning…

* Catch the attention and interest of students

Can we once and for all retire everything boring within education? How can we engage learners? One of the first things that come to mind is make it relevant. Make is interesting. Make it silly (but not too silly) and make it challenging (but not too challenging). I feel like we tend to dumb things down for students, especially high school students, and we don’t need to. We expect them to act like adults but then give them things suitable for a child then wonder why they weren’t interested in it. Use different medias to reach diverse range of students. I think the number one reason why education is failing is because we aren’t sparking the interest of students in an instant gratification era. We need to make education and learning an instant gratification experience.

* Outline the purpose and objective of the lesson or course

I can’t tell you the number of times I hear “What are we doing today” in a given class period. Sometimes I feel like toying with them and respond “Don’t you trust me” and the truth is they do but they just always want to know. Students need to be told the purpose, objective, and even expectations and this applies to online instruction as well as in class instruction. They almost need a checklist of what they should be able to do at the end of the lesson so that they can self-assess their own learning. They need to be more responsible and take ownership of their education.

* Give students choice rather than formula

We already know that everyone is different and that we all learn differently. Many online instruction is formulaic, which is ironic because it is supposed to assist in differentiated learning. Some students learn better via powerpoint and traditional lecture and other students learn better through examples so why not have both? I can be like a choose your own adventure for learning. And instead of having one or two ways of having students practice and assess their learning, why not give students the option of creating their own assignments? Obviously this needs to be monitored but I feel like things would be more meaningful if the students created it themselves. Maybe not all the time but at least having the option to do so would be a vast improvement.

* Provide practice to build learning

Practice isn’t just problem solving, reading and answering questions, and doing worksheets. Practice should allow students to look at something and be able to see it in different ways – theoretically, in practice, and as a reflection. We need a way to make learning more concrete. We need to make it stick and that means we need to practice more. Reading it is one thing, but if we want students to retain anything, we need to give them ways to practice it and live it.

* Give feedback to help solidify learning

What are they doing right? What are they doing wrong? What are they understanding and what are they confusing? All of those things are necessary. We had already mentioned it in our class before but there error is a good thing. We learn through errors. We build through errors. Teachers guide and direct students through clutter to organizing, understanding, and learning. The feedback is essential. I think about the papers I have received from some teachers in the past where there is nothing but the grade. I get a B but there is nothing that tell me why and how I can do better. What do I learn? Nothing. Feedback would tell me what to do in the future and without it I probably will continue to make the same mistakes and continue to get B’s and then get frustrated and ultimately give up. Feedback is imperative.

* Assess learning

Student learning should be assessed much like student practice – it should be in a way that mirrors their optimal learning method. Meaning that student assessments should also be differentiated. Some students do better writing an essay while other students are more successful with multiple choice or true and false questions. The types of assessment should not necessarily be the same for all. Do we need a test for everything just to prove learning occurred? I’m not sure we do.

E-learning can be a great method of teaching and learning and I see great potential in its theories but we need to refine the practice of it. The bottom line for both online and in class learning is that it needs to be meaningful to the students, something relevant to their lives, and something practical for real life. I think it comes down to learning the culture of our students first and then refining education to fit into their culture. We are pressing education on them without learning about what they are all about.

Let’s think about it. Education hasn’t really changed in … forever. Youth culture, teen culture, and student culture has changed immensely and continues to change. Shouldn’t we cater education to the students?