Sunday, November 22, 2009

LINDA SLACUM "Mock Facebook" Nov. 22, 2009 LM_NET

Ms. Slacum has a HIT about how teachers and teacher-librarians are using Facebook, blogging and other Web 2.0 tools in the classroom and library. I get so frustrated when reading these because I have talked myself blue in the face in my district without any avail. We do not let students on networking sites...period. We COULD because we have the equipment and services available but we won't. We don't want parents to ask us why their child is on Facebook at school just like we don't want them to access the library catalog - we don't want them to ask why certain books are on the shelves. SO WRONG!!!!!!

Reality Bytes...Reality is Testing

Buffy Hamilton is echoing a question we all deal with everyday.

"Why do some students embrace reflection and original thinking while others chafe in the face of learning experiences that do not reflect the knowledge banking nature of today’s test driven educational climate?"

Students know that their grades result in happy/angry parents and teachers, self-satisfaction, a way of comparing themselves to others...entrance to college, jobs, etc. Where do these grades come from? Scores on assignments and tests...or at least that's the perception of the student. This is not new. What is new is the all-encompassing MAP (or other test).

I don't blame students for wanting us to tell them exactly what they are supposed to know and help them learn to do exactly what they need to do. They know how much depends on GPAs and ACT/SAT scores for college; they know there will be tests in every profession...the Bar, Boards, and other certifications. I like to know what I will be evaluated do they. I want to know what my principal is looking for when she comes in to observe. I know my students need to gain a certain amount of knowledge and skills while they are with me. That is what expected of me. My students are expected to pass these tests...that's the reality that it seems none of us can do much to change in the near future.

I must be cynical today, but we all want Buffy's Elesian fields of literacy but reality is very different.

Jacqueline Henry "Blogs as authoritative sources" Nov. 21, 2009 LM_NET

I often wonder how to teach my students about using blogs as sources. It seems I am not the only one. Ms. Henry makes the point very well. "If the author posts credentials it is easy. If they don't - I advise the student to toss them out. Many of these sites have info that just looks SO good - it catches them up." More than once I have watched a student struggle to find good sources about a particularly elusive topic and FINALLY come across an "excellent" site full of information... a blog. I just pray we can find the author and some credentials. No such luck. Now my student thinks I am purposely trying to make his/her life more difficult and they are not listening to anything else I say. Well, that last bit is not true, I hope. Fact: very frustrating. Can we start implementing a tag or filter for Websites so that kids can type in "good" and only good ones show up? (no, I'm not smoking anything - just a thought)

Change for change's sake...not always good

Leadership is getting someone to do what they don’t want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve. - Tom Landry

Doug Johnson used this quote as he discussed the difficulties of implementing change in an organization like a school. Change is inevitable, but not all change is good change. I think leadership is making sure you know just what it is everyone around you wants to achieve, first. Then, make sure the stuff they "don't want to do" will actually increase achievement. I sometimes wonder if we hypothesize what will make everything better, then forget to check and see if it IS actually making things better once we have it. Sometimes there's a damn good reason people "don't want to do" certain things - like, it doesn't work! Is hoping that it will all work out in the end worth the fight to convince people it will (when you don't even know that it will)?

My outlook isn't completely cynical. I just want to know that when I am told by a supervisor that I must implement a change, I want to know said person has done their homework. I want to see the data that says it will work and why it works. I don't think that is too much to ask.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Distracting Technologies

Doug Johnson asks "How do we deal with the distractive qualities of technology in schools?" I honestly don't think this is technology problem, it is an engagement problem. Would anyone argue that students were always paying close attention and never distracted in school before iPods and Twitter were available? One person commented that this is much more of an issue in secondary than elementary schools. True, simply because older students tend to have more access to these devices. Are elementary students more likely to be interested and focused on the lesson? Others commented on making sure you, as educator, are using technologies for a purpose, not just "because." I think this is completely off topic. Students can benefit from lessons using any kind of technology or not. The educator's job is to get them interested and keep them engaged. If this is happening, they won't be listening to their iPods. If it is not, they will find other ways of entertaining themselves, passing notes, doodling, etc. The question about how to use technology effectively as a learning tool is another discussion entirely.


Joyce Valenza shows off some the videos her students created with Animoto recently. I also used this Website with my students. We ran into a few problems but were successful in the end. All our images were cited and we were able to show our parents during PT conferences. The parents were thrilled, the students were proud and I have nowhere to put them. Everything is cited so they would be fine on the Web but my district won't allow me to do that. Frustrating!

Sandra Carswell "Fair Use and Copyright on the Web" Oct. 27, 2009 LM_Net

This post goes through very useful tips about how and what is legal to use under the "fair use" clause in copyright law. She points out that many images can be used as long as the student work is used only in the classroom, not published online. In that case, citations are necessary. Why would we ever let students use images or words without citing them, no matter where their final product ends up? How are we teaching our students to use sources ethically and responsibly if we don't insist they give credit to the correct owner. I think it is very misleading to let students not cite works for certain things and insist they cite in other situations. I suggest students be required to cite all sources and that teachers/librarians model this practice in their own work.

Mary Burkey "Audio Books" Oct. 27, 2009 LM_Net

Burkey suggests resources such as "ALSC Notable Children's Recordings & YALSA Amazing Audiobook selection lists and Odyssey Award titles" for audio books. She also posts this link for evidence of why they are important. The SPED department in our district recognized the importance of these resources but chose to buy MP3 players and record someone reading the book instead of buying the audio version. As Floyd pointed out, this is copyright violation. I wonder who was responsible for knowing and/or enforcing this in my district? I still don't know.