Sunday, November 10, 2013

Blog Post #12

Sir Ken Robinson
Sir Ken Robinson is an author, educator, and creativity expert who challenges the way we are educating our children. He champions a radical rethink of our school systems in order to cultivate creativity and acknowledge multiple types of intelligences.

What Can We Learn from Sir Ken Robinson? -Dr. Strange

Changing Education Paradigms

The current system of education was designed for a different age group that lived in a different time period, but honestly, when would useless facts, such as facts we studied for on the ACT and the Alabama High School Graduation Exam, ever get anybody, anywhere, during any time period? In this video, we have learned how important it is to evolve our teaching methods throughout the course of our careers in order to prepare our students in the best way possible for their futures. Sir Ken Robinson challenged all the thoughts behind the rapid diagnosis of children being ADHD. Yes, we do believe ADHD is a real disorder, but who doesn’t get fidgety listening to a boring lecture for an hour? Why would a child be stimulated in the least bit from hearing his/her teacher talk nonstop? Yes, a child will get fidgety and easily distracted if the classroom environment is not engaging enough! Children are energy and it takes a lot of effort to keep energy still. Children are naturally curious. For example, when bored, they fidget, ponder, and look out the window. They see a stray kick ball and now they want to go play outside! That doesn’t mean they need to be medicated. It means we need to refocus their attention! It is so important for us as future educators to take an honest look around us and soak up what our world consists of these days in order to prepare our students for their future. The children we will be teaching are immersed in technology. As future educators, we have to make a connection between the content we are teaching and the real world. In order for our teaching to be effective, our students must be able to relate to the material and the tools being used during a lesson.
Authors: Brylyn Cowling and Stephanie Faison

How to Escape Education’s Death Valley

One of the major crises in education is the dropout rate. The Native American society has an 80% drop out rate, and the American society has a 60% drop out rate. Sir Ken Robinson then mentions how this affects the economies. The drop out rate does not include the students still in school that are disengaged in learning. America spends more money on education than any other country on taking initiative and trying to improve education, but the problem with education is that it is going in the wrong direction. Sir Ken Robinson then summarizes three important principles that are crucial for the human mind to flourish, but are contradicted by the current culture of education.

The first principle is that ALL students are naturally diverse. An issue with the No Child Left Behind Act is that it forces teachers to follow standards that promote Math and Science. “Education under No Child Left Behind Act is not based on diversity but conformity.” -Sir Ken Robinson. According to Sir Ken Robinson, these areas of study are necessary, but not sufficient. Students are being evaluated on what they can do across a very narrow spectrum. Education should be equally weighted through the Arts, Physical Education, and Humanities as well. Students prosper by a broad curriculum that encourages their various talents and engages them in the learning process.

The second principle is about curiosity. Students will adopt this principle if the teachers will only give them a chance to be curious. Sir Ken Robinson mentions that teaching is not a “delivery system.” Teachers are not here to deliver information to the students, although that is basically what our education through grade school consisted of. Instead of “telling” your students, “allow” your students to dig deep in order to strike curiosity. We feel as if so much “telling” takes place, and not enough “allowing” takes place. Yes, teachers should deliver received information, but they should do so in an engaging and thought-provoking way.

The third principle is about creativity. A very important role of education is to awaken the students’ imagination and in order to encourage creativity. Students must be given opportunities to be creative. This shouldn’t be a hard task in an elementary school classroom! We think that giving students a voice/choice will strike their imagination and provoke creativity.
Authors: Brylyn Cowling and Stephanie Faison

The Importance of Creativity

There is a sad trend in schools today. More and more focus is being placed on math and literature, and the arts are being left behind. The arts are just as important as any other subject, but they are treated as though they are unnecessary. Something that Sir Ken Robinson said in this video was incredibly profound, and was the subject of a great deal of conversation in our group. That statement was “If you aren’t prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original.” How many times have you had an idea and thought “nah, that’ll never work” and remained silent? When the teacher asks an open-ended question in the classroom, how many of us are silent, and avoid meeting her gaze for fear of being called upon? It’s not that none of us have any thoughts, but we are too scared to share them. Sir Robinson also said, “In education, it is stereotypical that a mistake is the worst thing you can make.” So if we train our students that mistakes are wrong, and then turn around and ask them to share their ideas, how can we honestly expect them to open themselves to criticism? We have to encourage creativity. It is a vital skill that not only applies in the classroom! Creativity is one of the building blocks of problem solving. If you run up against a problem with a solution in mind, and that solution doesn't pan out, what do you do? Come up with another solution! If we hamper our students’ ability to think outside the box, how are they going to succeed in life? We need to rethink the way our students are taught. Every student is an individual. They are their own person.
Authors: Brylyn Cowling and Stephanie Faison

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Blog Post #10

The Last Lecture


Randy Pausch's Last Lecture was very inspirational! He gave so much wonderful advice that I could write for days about it all. His words can be applied not only to life in general, but also teaching and learning. The biggest driving message of his lecture was enabling the dreams of others. Giving someone else the chance to achieve their dreams is far more rewarding than achieving your own. I think this should be the ultimate goal for every educator. Not only should you teach them the things they need to know, but you should encourage them to chase their dreams! If they want to drive an ice cream truck or go to space, it is our job as educators to help them in any way we can. He also said to never lose your sense of childlike wonder. In this day and age, with all of our cynicism, I find that point to be extremely important. Especially for educators! How can you identify with your students enough to teach them, if you can't see the world through their eyes? A piece of advice from one of Randy's colleagues that was about people, was to wait. And if you wait long enough, then people will surprise and impress you. They just need more time. This applies directly to how I feel about profiling in the classroom. If a teacher treats a student like a slacker, that student is going to be a slacker! It's referred to as the "self-fulfilling prophecy." I believe in giving people additional chances. You can't know everything about a person. And as such, you can't judge them based on a small piece of information. You have to find the best in people.

There were two wise points he made that go hand in hand. The first, was that the best gift an educator can give is to get someone to be self-reflective. And the second was that if you get feedback, don't get defensive. Cherish the feedback and use it to better yourself. How can you teach someone to be self-reflective if you can't do it? Evaluating your own work and your "self" are two things that every individual has to be able to do to succeed. We should show our students how to do this! What is readily apparent to some may not be the case for others, so we have to show them how.

He also gave so much good advice on basic core values; the things that everybody should do. It is advice that not only applies to educators, but to people in general: apologize when you screw up, be honest, be earnest, because you can't get there alone, never give up, help others, focus on other people besides yourself, loyalty is a two way street, and show gratitude. These are things that should be a no-brainer. I've included these here because I think that in order to be a successful educator, you have to be a good person. You also have to be a lifelong learner. Randy's lecture wasn't just some psychobabble that he wrote on a napkin. Those lessons he shared were things that he learned over the course of his life. We have to follow suit. When he earned his degree, that didn't mean his education was over. The same will apply to me when I graduate. I can prepare for decades and not be totally ready. When that day comes, I will simply follow my favorite piece of advice from "The Last Lecture." And that is "Don't complain. Just work harder."

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Blog Post #9

Back to the Future

Learning word graphic

After listening to Brian Crosby’s TED Talk, we learned very valuable information that we need to consider over the course of our entire teaching career.

First, Mr. Crosby speaks about his 4th grade class. He mentions that 90% of the students in his class are second language learners, students of poverty, and considered to be “at risk.” Mr. Crosby mentions that it is important that these students not have a narrowed curriculum just because of their background information. Our group found this situation very enlightening. In our future teaching career, we are fully aware that we will have students from all walks of life. We will have students that barely speak English, that are on different academic levels, live in a low-income family, live in a high-income family, etc. It is very important to give all students the same opportunity to learn, regardless of who or what they come from. Why give students a narrowed curriculum? Why not give students an opportunity to excel far beyond what they imagined? As aspiring educators, this segment of the video really made us realize how conscious we will have to be of giving all students the exact same opportunity to learn. It is very important not to apply stereotypes in the classroom. In our Classroom Assessment course, a course required for elementary education majors at The University of South Alabama, we learned about the “self-fulfilling prophecy” in regards to students. If a teacher treats a student as though he or she will do poorly, and doesn’t expect much from that student in general, then over the course of their education that student will morph into exactly what that teacher thinks of him or her. And that is not fair to the student by any stretch of the imagination! If we treat our students, all of them, with respect and hold them all to the same high standard, we will be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Mr. Crosby then speaks about a few science projects his class had completed. He mentioned that his class used their science book “a little bit” and that the projects, of course, aligned with the standards that Mr. Crosby had to cover. Our group learned a lot from that one statement. Classroom textbooks can be a great tool, but do not necessarily have to be used at all times, or used as the only learning tool while covering required state standards. Learning goes far beyond a classroom textbook! As future educators, we have to be creative in order to provide hands-on and engaging activities and projects that the students can relate to and that motivates the student. Having students read the text from a classroom textbook, complete a worksheet on the material, and then the teacher administering a test on the material is not an effective way of teaching. As stated earlier, learning stems far beyond a classroom textbook! From this video, we learned that giving students opportunities to collaborate with other students, research, and think deeply in order to solve a problem or answer a driving question is a much more effective way of teaching. This portion of the video impacted our group greatly. It made us realize that it is okay to step outside of the box and be creative with our pedagogy. Here is a well respected figure in the education world, basically giving us the go ahead to teach our students the way they deserve to be taught. Textbooks should merely be tools, not what the entire course is based upon.

Something else important we learned from Brian Crosby’s TED Talk is that getting an education is not a race to the finish line. One day, Brian Crosby was informed that he had a new student, Celeste, on his class role, but that he would probably never even see Celeste. He learned that Celeste was undergoing cancer treatments for Leukemia. Since her immune system was so low, she could not attend class for the fear of getting even more sick. Celeste had to be enrolled in a class in order to qualify for home studies. The idea that Mr. Crosby would never interact with Celeste in his classroom did not sit well with him, so he decided that he would, in fact, involve her daily in his classroom. Mr. Crosby would Skype/video chat Celeste so she could listen to lessons and also feel apart of the class. When Celeste was diagnosed with Leukemia, her life was probably turned upside down. Any sense of normalcy, such as being a member of a classroom, probably meant the absolute world to her while going through something so tragic. And let’s face it, unless Celeste’s parents were professional educators, Mr. Crosby was probably a more suitable teacher for Celeste. Celeste’s situation was very unfortunate, but it is still so important that she gets the same opportunities to learn, regardless of her health status. We learned from this video that an education should not be a race to the finish line, wherever and whatever that finish line may be. The process of learning is not something to be rushed through. An education should be thoroughly taught and available to all students, regardless of their health status or limitations. The world needs more teachers like Mr. Crosby. He went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure this girl got the education she deserved. That level of compassion is something that every teacher ought to demonstrate on a daily basis.

Blended Learning


Paul Anderson teaches AP Biology in Montana, and he taught us a very interesting strategy! He has a mnemonic device that he uses, called QUIVERS. It breaks down into Question (hook), Investigation, Video, Elaboration, Review, and Summary Quiz. Starting off the lesson with a question, or hook, that draws the students in is a great way to engage them. Then the students are instructed to investigate. There are elements of project based learning throughout Mr. Anderson’s strategy that we think will be very useful when becoming elementary school teachers. Then, the investigation is halted and a video is shown. This breaks up the traditional monotony of the classroom. Kids love watching videos. Next in this sequence is elaboration. Anderson provides resources and direction, and allows the students the room to find the answer to his question. This seems to us a bit like “Partnering,” the pedagogy referred to by Marc Prensky. The roles of the teacher and student should be redefined. The student should be placed in charge of their learning, while the teacher acts as a guide. When students feel that they are comfortable with the material, Mr. Anderson has them review with him. This is an example of partnering again. Letting the students do their own research gives Mr. Anderson the opportunity to come up with really deep questions. He feels, and we agree, that if you can’t explain what you’ve learned to someone else, then you don’t know it as well as you thought you did. If the student hasn’t adequately learned the material, Mr. Anderson sends them back to the drawing board to continue digging into the subject. Once he is comfortable with his students’ levels of comprehension, he gives a summary quiz on the material. To our minds, Mr. Anderson has taken some of the best aspects of project based learning and partnering and combined them into a new pedagogy. Utilizing different strategies helps him to manage his classroom, and maximize learning.

Making Thinking Visible


Mark Church, author of “Making Thinking Visible,” uses a research based method to teach students how to think. In his class, he had his students watch a video, and then create a headline about their opinion on the overall theme of the project. His thought process behind this was to capture the students current mindset about the lesson. And at the end of the lesson, he is going to ask them if their “headline” is still the same, and if it’s not, what has it changed to? This is a critical skill for students to have. Reflecting on your opinion, learning something new, and then changing your opinion is a valuable skill necessary for the real world, and also a skill that we think is becoming more and more scarce. Too many people are close-minded in their thoughts. They have an opinion of something, and no matter how much new data emerges, they will not change their minds. We have to teach children that it is okay to change your mind! Opinions are not set in stone. We think that Mr. Church’s lesson here is an amazing thing to teach to children. Being open to new things and always updating your perspective will make you a better person. And as teachers, don’t we owe it to our students to teach them to be the absolute best person they can be?

All in All

Everyday, we learn something new that will help us in our future teaching careers. Learning is a never-ending process, and as we progress through our own education, we are realizing that in order to be effective educators, we must be constant learners. Dr. Strange even said that after 50 years, he does not always have the answers to every question, and is still learning himself. Watching videos like these, we get to learn from the people who are at the crest of the wave that is sweeping through the education world. We both know that when we walk out of The University of South Alabama as graduates, we will not be entirely prepared for the road ahead. But as long as we continue to learn from influential educators, use the things we’ve learned, remain constant learners, and do the very best we can from the moment we walk into our classrooms, we will be successful.
Authors: Brylyn Cowling and Stephanie Faison

Friday, October 11, 2013

Blog Post #8

21st Century Tools

As we prepare ourselves to be future teachers, we must always be on the lookout for tools that we can use to improve our classrooms. These tools can be online databases, apps, books, or even online message boards. Being a teacher means that we will always have to deal with change. As such, we must learn to embrace change. Building up a pool of educational/technological resources throughout our college career will benefit us greatly by the time we get into our field of study. In the spirit of being prepared, we have located a couple of resources that we think will be helpful to us in the future.

Teacher Lingo is an online resource for teachers of all grades. Teachers can share activities, lesson plans, worksheets, and many other useful classroom tools. There is also (and this is the part we really like about it) a forum for teachers. A pre-existing online network of fellow teachers can be a valuable resource! There is also a blog directory for any teaching circumstance we can think of! Substitute teachers, special ed, parents, and many others each have their own niche on the webpage that you can peruse to find what you need. We think it is important for any new teacher to be able to reach out and ask questions through their personal learning network. This website allows for that, while at the same time providing resources to be used in the classroom.

TeacherLingo Logo

Being future elementary teachers, we found lots of age appropriate materials for the younger generation of students. The materials available can be sorted by grade, subject, resource type, and cost! Yet another feature we really like is the fact that you can sell on this site! For example, say you come up with a worksheet that your students really enjoyed which in turn made the worksheet very effective. You could go post it on to share it with others in your field.Teaching involves a lot of collaboration amongst fellow educators in a personal learning network, and we feel that this website will be incredibly useful in years to come.
Authors: Brylyn Cowling and Stephanie Faison



Kidblog is a free, safe, and simple blog for students. Kidblog is built by teachers, for teachers. Kidblog is designed for K-12 teachers that want to provide an individual blog for each of their students. Teachers maintain complete control over student blogs and user accounts at all times. Our group loves the idea of Kidblog and we both plan to have a class blog when we become elementary school teachers.

Kidblog allows students to exercise digital citizenship within a secure and private classroom blogging space. This secure blog is COPPA-Children's Online Privacy Protection Act compliant and does not require any personal information from students. The students' blogs are private by default and viewable only by classmates and their teacher. Teachers can elect to make posts public, while still moderating the content. The comment privacy settings block unsolicited comments from outside sources.

Kidblog is very simple and student-friendly. This blog site has a central blog directory and simple navigation links in order to make it easy for students to find classmates' blogs. The layout of the blogs created on Kidblog have a clutter-free design, which means students spend less time customizing their blog and more time writing and publishing. Kidblog has easy login menus that allow students to select their name from a list of students in the class. Students do not have to memorize complex user names. We find this aspect wonderful! Can you imagine students having to memorize a username and password? There are probably college-age students in EDM310 that have had, at some time or another, trouble remembering their blog login information!

Our group, as mentioned earlier, plans to have class blogs in our future classroom. Something we talked about when we gathered to do collaborative work this week was how when we were in elementary school, we loved getting to do projects with students in other classrooms. Being able to collaborate with students outside of our immediate class was always such a treat. Kidblog provides this same collaboration, only now, in a virtual environment. Students can, if teachers permit, have access to other student blogs outside of their immediate classroom. Kidblog is a great way for students all over the world to collaborate with one another in a safe environment. Something else our group mentioned when discussing Kidblog was the aspect of students having an authentic audience. We feel as if Kidblog will make students put forth their best effort when creating posts knowing they have other bloggers, such as fellow classmates, reading their work. We each look forward to creating class blogs for students with Kidblog in our future classrooms!
Authors: Brylyn Cowling and Stephanie Faison

Comments4Teachers #3 and 4

Brian Bennett is a science teacher in Evansville, Indiana. He hopes to create 21st century learners, and his blog is where he writes about that mission, as well as personal projects, and technical insights.


Chrome Logo

The first post I commented on was about Google Chrome, and an amazing function it has! Within Chrome, you can designate multiple users, and associate all of your passwords and plug-ins with that specific user. For people like me, with four emails, and very different needs that go along with each, this option is a godsend! I have a Chrome user for personal/school, Zirtual (which is work), and an account for a separate client! I told Brian that I had indeed discovered this function, and explained how useful it has been to me. Then I mentioned another trick I found within Chrome. You can have certain web pages open as soon as you open the browser, that are specific to the user! So if I click on my Zirtual user, it automatically loads up my Gmail and Harvest! If I click on my personal user, it loads up Gmail and my Blogger account. I adore Chrome, and I have no idea how I survived without it.


Night Sky

The second post of Brian's that I commented on was about his Astronomy project. He is going to use a program called Python to write an application that will allow him to direct his telescope via a small motor. His ultimate goal is to be able to enter a planet in the program, and the telescope will locate the planet. I told him that I thought that was incredible. I also said that I enjoyed looking at the stars, and wished him luck on his program. Then I told him that I would be posting the comments on my own blog.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Project #9 Podcast


Our group, Brylyn Cowling and Stephanie Faison, discusses the pedagogy of partnering, as explained by Marc Prensky in Digital Natives - Partnering for Real Learning.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Project #2: PLN in Progress


A network of people

A personal learning network is, to put it simply, your outside resources. It can be a person or an application that you go to when you need help or collaboration. This is challenging for me, and it is something I am working at. I try to remind myself that "no man is an island." I've always been a very independent person. If I'm being perfectly honest, I don't like asking for help at all. I'm prideful. I don't want to say to someone "I need help, I can't do this myself." I feel like I should be able to do it myself! As I progress through my education at USA, I have to remember that I will need help. And I shouldn't feel inadequate when I ask for help. Just last week, I had my first meeting with an adviser. Ever. I've been in and out of college, unable to decide what I wanted to major in, since 2008. And I have never sat down with someone and said "I don't understand what I need to do to proceed. Please help me." And when I walked out of his office, all of my ducks neatly in a row, and my worries completely alleviated, I marveled at myself! I thought "I've gone all of this time without any sort of guidance, flying by the seat of my pants. No wonder I haven't graduated yet!"

So with that all in mind, I have begun my search for the people and places that I am going to go to for help in the future. I am finding some amazing resources that I know I will come back to. There are Twitter feeds, blogs, and websites that I have followed or bookmarked, and they are as follows:

We Are Teachers ‏ @WeAreTeachers
We offer ideas, inspiration & information for your best days & double that for your hard ones. Supporting kids means supporting educators, always.

Ed Week Teacher ‏ @EdWeekTeacher
Education Week Teacher: a leading source for K-12 teacher leaders covering instruction, school environment, classroom technology, curriculum, and more.

Edutopia @edutopia
Inspiration and information for what works in education.

Education Week @educationweek
American education's newspaper and website of record.

Ideas Worth Spreading.

Paige Vitulli ‏ @PaigeVitulli
Passionate about family, friends, art, technology, traveling, food, learning and exploring. Associate Professor of Education in AL

Education Nation @educationnation
What do YOU think it takes for student success? Weigh in with #WhatItTakes, and click the below link to send us a video. Hosted by @NBCNews.

US Dept of Education @usedgov
News and information from the U.S. Department of Education. @Education_com
Follow us for ideas and inspiration to make learning fun.

John Strange ‏ @drjohnhadley
Professor, Univ of S. Alabama, Photography, Travel Planner, Technology, Future, Cook, Education, Duke, Princeton, Cruise Speaker, Wine Maven, Podcaster, Learner

Krissy Venosdale: Venspired

Pondering Paige

EDM 310 Blog

I will continue to add to this over the course of my education and my career. One thing that I know for sure is that it never hurts to ask for help. And I will make sure that in the future, when I do need assistance, I'm not afraid to ask for it.

Project #13: PBL Plan #1

This project is created for 4th grade students, and requires students to be able to identify the four angles: Right, straight, obtuse, and acute. This project takes five days to complete, and requires an additional adult, such as an aide or parent, in the classroom.

Contributors: Courtney Brown, Brylyn Cowling, Stephanie Faison

Project Overview and Project Calendar

Project Rubric

C4K Summary for September

For my first C4K, I got to visit Ms. Martin's English class.

Buckshot9856 wrote that they believe in Ghosts. They shared several stories in which they went ghost hunting with their mother and aunt. They saw a ghost of a little boy that had been cut up from head to toe in the cemetery. Later that night they saw one in a house, a dark shadow in a mirror... Buckshot said that there were people living in the house with the dark shadow, and didn't see how they can stay! Personally I don't either! Yikes! I tried to encourage Buckshot with a story. My grandmother’s house was haunted by a woman named Nelly. She was a wonderful woman that never got to have children of her own. She was killed due to a horseback riding accident, and she never left her home. My sister and I were staying the night one time, and I had kicked off all of my covers in my sleep. I was freezing! Well I woke up. Then a woman leaned over me, pulling up the covers and tucking me in. I remember that she smelled like lavender and horses. The next morning, I thanked my grandmother for tucking me in. My grandmother said, “I never left my room sweetie…” Then I told Buckshot not to worry, that there are nice ghosts in the world. I said "You just have to find them. Are you going to keep searching?"

My second C4K has me visiting the Outback, to Mrs. Lieschkes's 5th grade class.

Harmony writes that she was video chatting with a friend of hers, named Natalie. Natalie asked Harmony what her Club Penguin username was. Unbeknownst to Harmony, Natalie was making an account in Club Penguin, where Harmony was currently playing. All of a sudden, another penguin appeared in Harmony's igloo! She thought it was a weird stranger, but it was just Natalie. They then proceeded to play hide and seek in the igloo, and they had a grand ol' time. After introducing myself, I told Harmony that I like online gaming as well. I said that I play Guild Wars, an online game where you battle monsters to save the kingdom. When random people come talk to you in the game, it is creepy. On that front, she and I agree. Then I asked her if she plays any other games. She has since written back asking me what my favorite online game is! Hers is Club Penguin. I told her mine was Borderlands 2. She has yet to comment back.

Goldilocks and the three bars
My third C4K took me over to New Zealand!

There I met Liz, a grade 5 student in Miss Ouano's class. She wrote a "Point-of-view" story about Goldilocks and the Three Bears. She was taking a Mint Cake to her Nana. She went into a cute house, tried soup, sat on a chair, and took a nap. When she awoke, the bears were home, and she ran away! She ducked into other houses to hide, and only found more bears! She tripped, and the bears helped her up and said all she had to do was ask to use their things. After that, she, the bears, and her family all got together and had a good time! My comment to her was that her mint cake sounded delicious and that I loved her story. Then I asked if she enjoyed telling stories.

Thick clouds

My fourth C4K brought me to the US, in Robertsdale.

In Mr. Rhodus's sixth grade class, I met Janie, who decided to answer the question "How much does the sky weigh?" She said that the atmosphere weighs five million billion tons! Wow! And that equates to roughly fifteen pounds of pressure per square inch. I had no idea that the air around us was that dense! I told her that I was amazed by her post. And then I brought up the fact that newborns, who up until birth exist in a relatively weightless environment, can't pick up their heads. I attributed that to the fact that we have fifteen pounds of pressure all over our bodies, and made the observation that it is no surprise that babies can barely move when they are born!

Thoughtful monkey

Final Thoughts

Having gone through and commented on these students' blogs, I am in awe. Mainly because even as far away as Australia, kids are the same. All children are different, but there are commonalities. I find it refreshing and new, but comforting and familiar all at once. They're wonderful, and they surprise you at every turn. And yet, as I continue to learn the skills I need to be a teacher, with all of these changing teaching methods and technologies, I breathe easy. I may have to learn all sorts of new things to be able to do my job, but kids will be kids no matter what.

Blog Post #7

Anthony Capps and Dr. Strange

Anthony Capps is a third grade teacher at Gulf Shores Elementary School and also a former lab professional in Dr. Strange's EDM310 class.

Collaborative Thoughts on Project Based Learning Part 1

To hear a former student of EDM310, who is also a new elementary school teacher, discuss how easily he implements project based learning in his third grade classroom was refreshing. In Dr. Strange’s class, we learn so much about project based learning and how we should implement it in our future classrooms. Hearing how seamlessly Anthony uses PBL daily in his classroom is very encouraging to us as future educators. Anthony said that project based learning is constantly evolving, as it should be. New technologies emerge every day, and we must educate ourselves on how to utilize these new tools in our classroom. Updating our teaching methods in order to use these tools is vital.

Collaborative Thoughts on Project Based Learning Part 2

Something very informative Anthony mentions in Part 2 of Project Based Learning is when creating a project, never limit your students by giving them exactly what you want them to do. Instead, give them opportunities to go beyond what you want them to do. If you give your students a voice/choice in the project, it gives them a sense of power and ownership over their work. That also will encourage students who may be withdrawn or shy. If they have total creative control over their work, they will really shine. Likewise, confidence is a valuable personality trait that Project Based Learning reinforces tenfold.

Anthony reflected on a day that many of his “bosses” were coming to visit his third grade class. He said that the class was working on a project, and the project took a turn for the worse, and he knew he had to quickly modify the project in order for it to be effective. This taught us how important it is to be able to think on our feet and quickly modify/adjust a project if needed. It is important to keep the project engaging at all times, even if that means we (the teachers) have to quickly modify/adjust a project in the moment. Maintaining a positive atmosphere in the classroom is imperative. Students are much more productive and creative when everyone is in a good mood. If an issue arises that irritates a group of students, their angst can quickly turn your creative sanctuary into a gulag of negativity.

Collaborative Thoughts on iCurio

Something interesting we learned about iCurio is not only does it allow teachers to save and store useful content, it allows students to do so as well. iCurio helps students get virtually organized, which is a skill students will use throughout the rest of their lives. Another feature of iCurio we learned about from Anthony was the “read aloud” option for the sites on iCurio. So if a student was blind, or had a learning disability of some sort, iCurio has a read aloud option that will read an entire site to the student. Anthony really reinforced how important it is to use safe search engines, such as iCurio, because there is so much information on unprotected search engines that you do not want your students having access to. The most innocent search on Google can turn up some rather disturbing results.

Collaborative Thoughts on Discovery Education

Anthony shared that Discovery Education really brings experts into the classroom via video, which our group found very interesting. Students have access to topics on video that were created by experts, which creates a very authentic learning experience for the student. We also learned that Discovery Ed is a great way to enhance reading text. If the teacher can provide a video along with reading material, it creates a much more engaging learning experience. A fond, collective memory of the group was walking into the classroom (in the days before Youtube), and seeing a television with a DVD or VHS player hooked up. Students get so excited about videos because they are a break from traditional classroom activities.

Strange Tips for Teachers

Prepare to Learn

I really enjoyed this segment, because there was some fantastic advice mentioned. According to Anthony and Dr. Strange, teaching is hard work, but it is rewarding. As an educator, you have to be a lifelong learner. The learning doesn’t stop when you graduate. Just because you walk out of a school with a piece of paper doesn’t mean you will be completely prepared for the road ahead. You always have to learn new things. Another tip, that not only applies to teaching, but to all walks of life, is to be flexible. Things don’t always go according to plan, and successful people have learned how to roll with it. You’re going to create a lesson plan, and some problem is going to come out of left field. Will you adapt? Or will you panic? Being able to think quickly, react appropriately, and fix the problem will benefit you far greater than freaking out about the issue at hand. Encouraging reflection is another teaching tip from Anthony. By having students create presentations and giving them an audience to present them to, students will be much more critical about their own work. And that is a good thing! You want your students to go through that in-depth thought process of “What will this sound like? How can I get my point across?” Reflecting on your own work in order to improve it is a big deal in the real world! If your boss assigns you a project, and you bang something out without giving it much thought, and then turn it in, he’s going to show you the door! You have to be able to step back, self-evaluate, and improve. Project Based Learning, and the presentations that often go along with it, are a wonderful way to teach that skill.
Author: Stephanie Faison

Anthony’s Additional Thoughts About Lessons

Four Layers Thick

After watching “Additional Thoughts About Lessons,” I learned that planning a lesson takes a lot of thought. I learned that there a four layers to creating lessons: Year, unit, week, and day. The fours layers are like a curriculum map for the year for the teacher to follow. I like to visualize the four layers as four tiers. The first layer, the year, includes what content standards have to be covered over the course of the school year. The next layer within the year, the unit, is typically a 6-8 week time period that the teacher has specific content that is stretched out over this time period, and once the unit is complete, students are expected to have mastered the content covered. The next layer within a year and unit, week, is a weekly plan the teacher has in order to complete an entire unit. The last layer within year, unit, and week is day. Teachers must have daily plans in order to complete each weeks expected amount of work in order to complete a unit. Anthony’s “Additional Thoughts About Lessons” gave me a great visual of how I will have to construct my lessons in my future classroom.
Author: Brylyn Cowling

Don’t Teach Tech-Use It

The video Don’t Teach Tech-Use It describes an effective way to learn about different technology tools. There is so much you can do with technology, teaching it would take an enormous amount of class time. Plus, the actual experience students get from navigating and making mistakes gets them more involved and comfortable. I know when I use new technology tools, I learn more from what I call “playing around”. Which is just clicking on different options and seeing what they do. Mr. Capps made a great point about only introducing students to one new tool at a time and then allowing time to review. Students learning multiple tools at once can be overwhelming and confusing, which may lead to students getting frustrated and interferes with the learning aspect. It is vital to have enough time to review because students may have missed or misunderstood some important parts of the tool. Review time allows teachers to get a better understanding of what students actually learned and the areas where help is needed. Once students have mastered a tool then a new technology tool can be introduced. Technology is advancing rapidly. Teachers getting students familiar with learning new tools on their own helps students develop a necessary skill needed to learn future technology tools.
Author: Courtney Brown

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Project #8 Book Trailer

The Rainbow Fish

Blog Post #6

Questions in the Classroom

Man sitting on question mark
Asking effective questions in the classroom is a vital tool for any teacher. In order to get the students really thinking about the lesson, the teacher has to ask the right questions. Simple yes and no questions are not going to engage your students. You have to dig into the lesson, and find ways to make them think. Critical thinking is a very valuable skill that these students will use for the rest of their lives. So as teachers, we have to foster an environment that encourages critical thinking, and we do that by asking questions. In an article by Ben Johnson, he discusses the fact that once students learn their typical "roles" in the classroom, they tend not to stray from that role. The brainy kids will always raise their hands, the class clowns will chuck paper planes across the room, and the kids that don't care will space out. We have to bring them all back to the lesson at hand by managing our classrooms. A key way of doing so is by asking questions! In Ben's article, he mentions something that I had never thought of before. When asking a class any type of question, if you lead with the name of the student you are asking, everyone else will hear that name and go "Phew! Not me! Back to doodling on my paper." I know because I've done it! We wait to see if we are the one on the hook, then breathe a sigh of relief and stop paying attention. By asking the question first, pausing, and then naming a student, you've kept everyone on their toes because they don't know if they will be called upon! Now that they're all thinking about the question, you may call on someone. At this point, they will pay attention just to see if this other person answered the same way they would have! Congratulations, you've managed your classroom well!

Questions are more important than answers!

The questions you ask are more important than the answers you get. To my mind, this equates to the saying "It is not the destination that matters, only the journey." In essence, the road your students take to get to the answer is more important than the answer itself. The process is what is important. And this applies to all studies and all walks of life. Even math! Why do we have to show our work when doing math problems? We are demonstrating the process we took to get our answer. If our answer is wrong, than we can go back to the process and see where we made a mistake. As we ask questions, it is important to keep the concepts we are reinforcing in mind. Design your questions so that they point your students in the right direction, but at the same time, you want them to draw their own conclusions. Don't ask leading questions. Your students won't get a chance to think about anything if you've already given them the answer! And likewise, give them time to think about your question before you start calling on anyone. They will fumble with their answer and try to spit it out as fast as possible. As a result, they may not get to think as much about the question as they need to to properly answer it. Another thing to keep in mind while asking questions is to make sure that everyone's input feels respected. What I mean by that is, if a student answers exactly the way you would, and you just have a field day about their answer, other students who weren't thinking that way are going to feel inferior and keep to themselves. Congratulate the student on a good answer, but don't make a huge deal out of it. And on the flip side of that, if a student answers and they are so far off base that you don't even know how they got there, don't be irritated. Instead, try to find how the student arrived at that answer! They may surprise you! Everyone has different points of view, and maybe your student considered something that you never thought of. Or they could have misinterpreted a piece of important information. If that be the case, gently correct them and lead them back to where they should be. A student should never feel embarrassed for speaking their mind. I think the best thing to keep in mind is that everyone is different. People may agree on certain things, but nobody on this earth thinks exactly the same way that you do. So ask your questions! Just be prepared to be surprised by the answers.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Blog Post #4

Imagine a simple audio clip. It can have one person speaking, or three, or twenty! In its barest form, this is a Podcast. An audio file that has been recorded and then shared over the web. The word Podcast is actually a combination of iPod and broadcast. Since the iPod utterly dominated the MP3 market, when people began creating these downloadable broadcasts, the broadcasts became synonymous with iPods, giving us the term Podcast. That doesn't mean that Podcasts only work on iPods though. They are a digital media that can be accessed from any device with access to the web.

iPod Nano Rainbow

Why Podcasts?

In the classroom, Podcasts have a great deal of applications. According to Langwitch's blog, a number of skills are expanded upon with Podcasts, including; "listening, speaking, presenting, comprehension, storytelling, performance, voice acting, oral fluency, media, and technology." It engages students on so many different levels, I don't know why Podcasts aren't a part of every classroom! Hearing themselves being recorded, the children were motivated to go back and make it perfect, without any prompting from the teacher. Being able to critique your own speech from an outside perspective is much more effective than being told "You pronounced dinosaur wrong." Doing so also creates a greater self-awareness, which instills confidence. And in the classroom, confidence is key. If a student is confident, than they will try harder. When a confident student makes a mistake, they shrug it off, learn from it, and keep on going. Students that aren't confident tend to withdraw when they make mistakes, which interferes with the learning process. The old saying "Get back on the horse that threw you" comes to mind.

How do we do a Podcast?

Fortunately, Podcasts are simple in that you only need three things to create one; a recording device, an editing program, and a voice! The possibilities are endless beyond those three things. Their application in the classroom can be anything from mock interviews, to reading a book, to testing a person's speech! The Podcasts I listened to were adorable. How excited the children were at being recorded carried, very obviously, into their recordings. Listening to them, I also realized that sound effects made the Podcast so much more interesting. And that being descriptive is a must! With a Podcast being strictly audio media, bringing the other senses in with additional descriptions made it a much more captivating experience.

I think the Podcast is an under-utilized tool that will gain popularity in the future. As my generation of classmates assume the mantle of teacher, we will take these new teaching methods and technologies and revolutionize the classroom in ways that right now, I cannot even begin to fathom.

Project #3 Presentation

Comments4Teachers #1 and 2

Dr. Paige Vitulli is a teacher of the arts at the University of South Alabama, and she also happens to be my "Arts in the Elementary School" instructor. Her blog, Pondering Paige is a place where she posts about happenings in the art world, her classroom, and the way that education is changing.

One of the posts she made, which is about Interest Driven Learning includes a video that talks about how education needs to move forward. If the teacher capitalizes on the student's interest in certain subjects, and motivates them to continue learning about the things they love, than the student will go above and beyond the norm. Encouragement is vital in the classroom, and allowing the children to learn about the things that they actually want to learn about will give them a sense of accomplishment. When learning is forced, it isn't effective. In the video, there is a learning center in New York called The New Youth City Learning Network, that includes about a dozen places such as museums and digital learning activities. Ms. Rhoten is an organizational sociologist who believes that encouraging existing interests, and sparking new ones with digital media is the future of education. Basically taking the things that students love, and incorporating them into the classroom. My comment to Dr. Vitulli simply agreed with her. I also looked up interest driven learning and discovered that the U.S. Department of Education's Deputy Director has stated that their focus is shifting to interest driven learning. In the video, Ms. Rhoten mentions that digital media is the future of the classroom, and yet smartphones are banned in classrooms in New York. I asked Dr. Vitulli if she thought that smartphones would ever become commonplace, or even required in the classroom.

A class with the Dot Quilt

This is my class with the Dot Quilt

The second post I commented on was regarding International Dot Day, and the "Dot Quilt" her students, myself included, have made. She discusses the background of how Dot Day got started, and is now an international phenomenon. She includes pictures of the quilt that all of her students have created, and tells the reader how it was made. Using an 8 1/2 x 8 1/2 square of paper, students were encouraged to draw a dot, or a series of dots, using various colors in crayon. Once they were finished coloring the dot, they crumpled the paper. Smashing and unraveling the paper over and over again gave it a cloth-like texture. Then all of the dots were hole-punched and tied together, creating a very large "Dot Quilt". I told Dr. Vitulli that I loved the quilt! The way that the paper practically changed composition fascinates me. I even said "Your brain is telling you that this is paper, but it doesn't feel that way at all!" I added that I enjoyed making my own square, and explained my use of contrasting colors to make it stand out. The thought process behind Dot Day is "Make your mark and see where it takes you!" That phrase, and the corresponding project is a great way to encourage children and adults alike. Dr. Vitulli mentioned in class that the man who wrote the book The Dot, Peter Reynolds, actually retweeted their "Dot Quilt" pictures last year. So I asked her if he had done that yet. After that, I merely stated that I would be creating this post today! Dr. Vitulli's blog is very interesting and I will continue to follow it, especially since I am in her class!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Blog Post #3

Paper with corrections and red pen
Peer editing is tricky business. You have to be respectful of their work and stay positive, but still offer meaningful criticism. Starting out with a compliment will put your peer in a happy state of mind. They will feel good about what they have written, which is a good thing! This sort of paves the way for what follows, the suggestion. You have to use positive language to offer advice on things they ought to change. Telling them, "This sentence would sound better when worded differently," is much nicer than, "Your sentence doesn't make any sense. Fix it." Finally comes the hard part, the corrections. You are telling them that they have made a mistake. Naturally, you should approach this nicely, and to my mind, privately. I don't want the whole world to know that I made a mistake!

This is why, as far as I'm concerned, the corrections should be done privately. When a student is called out in class for making a mistake, they generally aren't happy about it. Why is peer editing any different? As a teacher, I am not going to announce mistakes to the class. It embarrasses the student! I know that I am embarrassed when it happens to me! Why should my students, or my peers, suffer that same embarrassment? If the issue can be handled privately, than it should be.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Blog Post #2

Our Thoughts on Mr. Dancealot

The youtube video Mr.Dancealot honestly made the three of us laugh. Mr. Dancealot obviously does not plan on his students "dancing a lot" after they complete his Social Dance course! How could Mr. Dancealot expect his students to learn how to dance when his feet were hidden behind a table and he did not allow students to mimic the dance moves he was teaching the class? Yes, Mr. Dancealot had a powerpoint that instructed the students on how to properly do the dance moves, but that simply was not enough instruction for a student to learn how to dance. Mr. Dancealot completely lost the students' attention due to his poor teaching techniques. The main message our group collaboratively got from Mr. Dancealot was that you have to learn by doing. After watching this video, we were reminded the importance of interactive learning. Students go to school to learn. In order for students to learn, teachers need to give students opportunities to learn. If Mr. Dancealot would have allowed his students to mimic the steps he was teaching the class, the students would have remembered how to do these steps come time for their final exam. Not only would the students remember the steps for the final exam, they would remember the steps for many years to come.

My thoughts on "Harness Your Students' Digital Smarts"

Ms. Davis’s use of technology in the classroom is able to connect her class to other students around the world. She also employs a tactic that I feel very strongly about, which is allowing students to teach each other. Having to explain a concept to your peers is a wonderful way to make the lesson stick. She stated in the video that some of the students were figuring things out on their own, and showing what they learned to her! In this day and age, it seems like a lot of young people seem to have an innate knowledge of technology. Utilizing this knowledge and building on it, Ms. Davis is creating a unique classroom environment. By stepping aside and letting students teach the class, and using project based learning, she creates a greater sense of community within the student body. As a class, they will be a more effective unit because they have all taught each other. Students communicate with each other better than a teacher can, so they will all be on the same wavelength with the lessons. This also plays into having them communicate with other students around the world. They create their own networks, which will be very valuable resources as they get older. Being able to make friends digitally is a valuable skill in this day and age, because the human race is now a global community. Having those outside connections will be very helpful for them in the long run, and the self-teaching skills they will use for the rest of their lives.

Brylyn Cowling’s Thoughts on Teaching in the 21st Century

Teachers are no longer the main source of knowledge in the 21st century classroom according to Kevin Roberts. Students have virtually limitless information and can find information on anything, anywhere, at anytime. If teachers can provide content, facts, formulas, dates, research, stories, theories, and information then a teacher's role in the lives of students in the 21st century classroom is obsolete. Teaching in the 21st century means to provide learning experiences for students. Ask students to solve problems that require them to find out information with the tools they use every day such as iPads, iPods, iPhones, Google, YouTube, or blogs. Kevin Roberts' thoughts on how he sees teaching changing are more than accurate. Teachers and students live in a technology driven society and in order for students to be prepared for his or her future outside of the classroom they need be given opportunities in the classroom to solve problems independently using the tools they have at their fingertips. The technology driven society we live in will have a huge affect on me as an educator. Daily I need to asses myself and ask, "Is this lesson going to prepare my students for his or her future outside of my classroom?" And if not, "How can I manipulate this lesson to give my students an opportunity to dig deeper and gain knowledge on the subject matter through the tools I have in my classroom?" As an educator, I will need to constantly educate myself on the current technological tools so I can then provide my students with opportunities to gain knowledge by exploring these new tools as well.

Courtney Brown’s Reactions To “The Networking Student”

While watching the video towards the beginning I asked myself, "What will the teacher do?" There was no lecture, no books, and only one class with the teacher. As I continued to watch it became more clear. The concept of networking to research your topics could be better than having a teacher. As I continued to watch it became even more clear. Networking provides access to people from all different walks of life. You can encounter people that have had first hand experience with the topics you are researching, for example, experts on the topic and people just expressing their opinions. You are allowed to see different perspectives, including some you might have never considered. When you're forced to look at something from a different view, it gets your mind going and makes you ask more questions. The more questions you ask, the more answers you have to research. It becomes an ongoing cycle of information you get to absorb. You then become your own teacher. Once I understood the full concept, I was able to answer my own question. What will the teacher do? The teacher will be a regulator. She will make sure the students know the rules to follow in order for the students to teach themselves efficiently.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Blog Assignment #1

If I built a school...

Sugata Mitra and Krissy Venosdale dream of open learning environments, where learning happens naturally. His "School in the Clouds" and her "Innovation Zone" are very similar in that they each want to place the control of the class in the hands of the students. Children are naturally inquisitive. Mitra and Venosdale both wish to capitalize on this natural drive to learn about the world around them. Mitra's "Hole in the Wall" project is an incredible example of the way children can adapt and learn. Non-English speaking kids were given a computer, and a simple "I don't know what that is!" He then stepped away, and let them take over. The results are astounding. They mastered the device, the language, and were learning things far beyond what Mitra thought possible. At one point he put complex biochemistry on a computer, trying to defeat his own experiment. And they still learned it! Venosdale wants a school where learning is the end goal, instead of passing standardized tests. Both people have revolutionary ideas that are going to shape the future of education. And that is where myself and my peers come into play. We have to be the ones who change the way classrooms work. We have to be the teachers stepping back and saying, "There is a better way to do this, and I am going to find it." Personally, I would like to teach Kindergartners or first graders. At that age, since they are just starting school, I would be building their foundations. Teaching them how to behave in class. That it is okay to ask questions! And to show them how to get the answers. One of the key components of that is reading. If they leave my classroom with a healthy appetite for knowledge, and the skills to find answers for themselves, then I will be satisfied.

Boy reading to young girl

What I want my students to know:

I want my students to learn as much as they can. I hate taking tests. I'm sure they do as well! I want them to learn for the sake of learning, not because I force them to regurgitate a concept every two weeks. Every child has a passion. Let them learn about what they want to learn about, I say!

What I want my students to be able to do:

I want them to have the skills they need to survive beyond my classroom. Being able to read, write, study, and teach yourself are all valuable skills that they will need for the rest of their lives.

How I will teach them:

I will use what they already love to teach them those things. As a child, I loved dinosaurs. And I remember sitting with my grandmother and sounding out the scientific names of the dinosaurs. There were times when she would look at a word and say "I have no idea!" And I would say, "That's easy! Vel-o-ci-rap-tor." By reaching out to them, and engaging them, I will be able to teach them far more effectively. I will also stand aside, as my grandmother did, and let them show me that they can do it. I will give them the blocks, and let them build their own towers with them.

The tools I will use:

Technology will play a large part in my classroom. I think it will be easier to engage the students with it. I know that taking paper notes was a drag. Being able to bring my laptop and type my notes was fantastic. And I was much more likely to take detailed notes with my computer, because it was easier. So I will translate that into my classroom by replacing traditional methods with new technology where I am able. Another wonderful, but under-utilized, tool in the classroom is letting the students teach other students. I think by dividing them into groups, showing each group a different concept, and then rotating the children into different groups, they can gang up on a concept, learn it, and then show it to their peers. There were times in school where I would be asked a question about a problem. By helping another person with that problem, it further cemented the lesson into my brain. I was using the knowledge I already had, but having to re-explain it gave me a better understanding of it.

The role of my students:

As I said before, I will allow them to teach each other. Letting them actively engage in the process will be very beneficial to them in the long run. Also, if my students have iPads or computers, I will put a question to them, and let them find the answer. I think that looking information up for yourself sticks better than information that you are told. I will give them space and let their natural curiosity take over. I will create an environment where they learn because they want to, not because they have to. I want them to love school, not dread it. I think one of the most important things that I can do as an educator, is to encourage a love of learning, and that is what my goal will be in the classroom.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013