Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Discovering Technology


Throughout this course, I have had the opportunity to implement a couple new technology activities in my classroom. The most successful activity was having students to create a tutorial video using a HoverCam to record images and audio. Students enjoyed creating these short videos and sharing them with their peers. Other activities included students learning to use social networks as an extension of the classroom, as well as students learning to use visual presentations to communicate a story properly to their peers.  All of these technologies engaged the students and helped promote a better understanding of English skills. Moreover, I became more comfortable with them as an instructor.

The immediate impact on my classroom has been a positive interest from my students. They have started to want to expand on projects now, and they are always wondering what the next big assignment will be. Although students enjoy working with the technology, they really enjoy doing something different. Several students, who at the beginning of the semester were not excited about the prospect of filming this year, are asking if they can create screenplays that can be double the amount of time required. This genuine interest from the students has motivated me to push my own comfort level to try new activities and ways to use technology.

Resources:
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2010). Program number 10: Spotlight on Technology: Social Networking and Online Collaboration: Part I [DVD]. Integrating Technology Across the Content Areas. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Monitoring My GAME Plan...


Monitoring My GAME Plan

This past week I have begun to implement a grammar lesson that I created with the Honors English teacher in my department.  I have observed him several times, and I am fascinated with his ability to make activities on the SMART board aesthetically pleasing.  We met and discussed the idea of expanding students understanding and implementation of figurative language devices in their writing.  Cennamo, Ross, and Ertmer support this type of interaction stating that it can be motivational for students (2009, p.93).  This last week, I had students begin learning different figurative language devices.  Once they understood the definitions, I began having them incorporate them into their writing by having students use images—all of the images were taking from Reuters—to elicit stronger writing.

My students had been struggling with expanding their writing, and after the activity, students were more comfortable in implementing figurative language devices into their writing.  Most of my students were struggling with when and how to implement figurative language into their writing.  By introducing the definitions and providing examples, students were able to view the images and apply figurative language devices into their writing.  This skill was strengthened by the SMART board skills the teacher showed me.  I was able to manipulate the clauses and phrases on the SMART board and rearrange them into coherent sentences.

Next week, I am looking to have my students use the same concepts of figurative language, but learn how to break the rules of grammar to make their writing stronger.  I will be using the same SMART board techniques, but will also be implementing the use of the HoverCam as a tutorial device to demonstrate to students how to properly break the rules of grammar.

Cennamo, K., Ross, J. & Ertmer, P. (2009). Technology integration for meaningful classroom use: A standards-based approach. (Laureate Education, Inc., Custom ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Updated: GAME Plan...


When reviewing my GAME plan I understand that I will need a few different resources in order to accomplish my goal.  The first step I am taking to accomplish my GAME plan is to start collaborating with a few of my colleagues.  I will focus our work together on designing new activities that focus on student centered technology integration.  I have begun talks with the Honors English teacher in my department on new technologies that he has used that have yielding positive results in his classroom.

Furthermore, I am in talks with an old professor from my undergrad with whom I worked with on two publications on folklore and music to improve student writing.  He introduced me to the idea of using technology as a teaching tool and when teaching in high school he focused always having students present their work in a visual art form using technology.  He has agreed to help me accomplish my GAME plan goals.

Finally, I will need to complete more research on my own to discover new activities that our student centered and integrate technology.  I will conduct my research through educational websites and blogs.  I will also utilize my learning community, as well as the message board for NCTE.  My research has not begun yet since I have focused on contacting the aforementioned individuals.  Once our schedules are set-up to conference and share ideas, I will then begin my own research and focus on finding new activities to implement in the classroom.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

GAME plan...


While reviewing the indicators of the National Education for Teachers there were a few that were intriguing, but two indicators in particular really made me reflect on my style of teaching and overall philosophy.  The two indicators were found in the Design and Develop Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments standard.  The first indicator states teachers should be able to “design or adapt relevant learning experiences that incorporate digital tools and resources to promote student learning and creativity” (International Society for Technology in Education, 2008).  The second states that educators should be able to, “customize and personalize learning activities to address students’ diverse learning styles, working strategies, and abilities using digital tools and resources” (International Society for Technology in Education, 2008).

My GAME plan in making the move towards mastery of these indicators is outlined with reflections on certain ideas and concepts presented in the standards.

Goals: 
The first goal I will begin to implement in my classroom is student-centered technology in my lessons at least once a week.  If I am to implement this type of technology more often I will.  However, I want to make sure that the technology used is beneficial for the student and not just an activity using technology for the sake of technology.  Secondly, I want these lessons to offer multiple opportunities for students to demonstrate content knowledge and skills and to incorporate multiple styles of learning.

Action: 
I will collaborate with fellow English teachers to learn of activities that incorporate technology and are driven by the students.
I will collaborate with the Science department to learn of activities that incorporate technology in my class.
I will research through National Conference for Teachers of English (NCTE) for activities, plans, and topics that can be incorporated in my class.

Monitor:
After each technology lesson, I will reflect on the overall quality lesson to help myself gain insight on how to properly implement student-centered technology lessons in the classroom.  I will reflect by asking myself “are the students engaged in the activity?”  Did the technology help deepen the students understanding in comparison to past years (Cennamo, Ross, and Ertmer, 2009)?  Have my students effectively demonstrated learning?

Evaluate: 
After several lessons, I will determine if the implementation of the technology centered lessons are in fact effective in enhancing my mastery of the above indicators.

Resources
Cennamo, K., Ross, J. & Ertmer, P. (2009). Technology integration for meaningful classroom use: A standards-based approach. (Laureate Education, Inc., Custom ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
International Society for Technology in Education. (2008). National education standards for teachers (NETS-T). Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/Libraries/PDFs/NETS_for_Teachers_2008_EN.sflb.ashx

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Reflection...


Reflection on Learning Theories

Several weeks ago I described my personal theory on learning. My theory included aspects of behaviorism and constructivism. Students assimilate knowledge that they can connect to their everyday lives and receive feedback as to whether or not the knowledge is applied correctly.  For much of my teaching experience I have designed lessons and units around these two theories and only these two theories; however, I have begun to implement more learning theories into my classroom in order to reach all students.

While I still strongly believe that these two aspects hold true, social constructivism also fits into the picture. With this addition, students are aided by a “more knowledgeable other” who can help the individual acquire more knowledge than they could alone (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010). Technology aids in this as communication can occur over long distances more quickly and the Internet through tutorials and demonstrations acts as a “more knowledgeable other.” A combination of these three learning models is representative of how students learn.
Two technology tools that I have already integrated in my classroom are VoiceThread and Webspiration. I have used VoiceThread in one activity with my students in which they discussed the social significance of the Max Schmeling vs. Joe Louis fight and the Jack Johnson vs. James Jeffries fight. Students were asked to read an article about the Joe Louis fight and compare the information presented in the article with the previous knowledge they had of the Johnson fight and discuss the overall significance each had in the advancement of black athletes in America through VoiceThread. This activity was a direct result of the shift in my personal learning theory as I have attempted create more social activities with my students. Together, students were able to think through the question, apply what we have learned, and made logical conclusions to answer the question.

The second technology, Webspiration, I have used twice with my 10th grade English class, which happens to be a survey course with no set curriculum. In one activity, students created concept maps that categorized the character development in the novel A Walk in the Woods. This allowed students to see how the juxtaposition was set-up between Bill Bryson and Stephen Katz.  It also allowed students to view why certain characters are placed in a book to move the plot forward and why we attach ourselves to certain characters rather than others. In the activity, students provided feedback to one another, leading into the behaviorist aspect of my personal learning theory.


One change that I would like to include in my class is to incorporate more hypothesis generating and testing. With this instructional strategy, students applying what they know, experimenting, and adjusting their hypotheses based on the experiments (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007). To accomplish this goal, I first will include a couple small activities in class in which students will generate and test hypothesis. I would eventually like to team up with our science teachers to create and implement more in depth activities, especially when completing the unit I implement where students create their own civilization. A second change that I would like to continue to work on is cooperative learning. While I have students work together on activities, I need to improve the types of activities that I am asking students to complete together. The ideal cooperative learning situation includes challenging scenarios that students individually could not complete (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010).

With my increased use of technologies such as VoiceThread, the difficulties of problems I am asking students will also increase. Over the summer, I would like to sit down with other teachers teaching the same subject to create weekly challenging scenarios for students to work together to solve through a VoiceThread discussion. This would be implemented at the beginning of the next school year and will help to develop a learning environment that utilizes multiple learning theories.


References


Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2010). Program eight. Social learning theories [Webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Baltimore, MD: Author.


Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Screwed Up First VoiceThread

I messed up my first VoiceThread so I had to repost another link.  Sorry.

http://voicethread.com/?#u2625224.b2918958.i15416138

Voice Tread...

I forgot to post my voice tread on my blog.  If you are able to respond to it that would be great, if you are unable to respond I understand completely.

http://voicethread.com/?#e2918958

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Social Learning Theories


Social learning theories have really become mainstream today’s education world as a result of the increase of social media (Laureate, 2010). The theories are based on the basic principle that knowledge is built through social interactions. The concept of the zone of proximal development provides a baseline for this theory. It states that a learner can only acquire a certain amount of knowledge on their own. To reach above this zone, the learner needs a “more knowledgeable other” (Laureate, 2010). This other person is needed to aid the learner in acquiring knowledge. This is where we as educators should be. The acquisition of knowledge that falls into our students’ zone of proximal development should be individual. The knowledge that falls above the zone is where we need to focus our attention and there are a variety of methods available to accomplish this.


One of these methods is cooperative learning. By having students work together, students themselves become the more knowledgeable others. They become supports for each other and are integral parts of building their knowledge together (Palmer, Peters, & Streetman, 2003). As educators, it is important that the tasks that cooperative learning groups are asked to complete are challenging and are in fact above the zone of proximal development. A common error that educators make when using cooperative learning activities is that students are not challenged enough to effectively allows students to build knowledge together (Laureate, 2010).


Technology has led to an increased focus of social learning theories. With social networking websites and applications becoming the norm for today’s teenagers, it’s important for educators to examine possible effectiveness in the classroom. Understanding why social networking has become so popular is the key to understanding how it can be used in education. This really boils down to the fact that individuals enjoy sharing thoughts and ideas and getting feedback from peers. It is the sharing of knowledge and the feedback that draw the interest of users. If this is the case, we as educators need to embrace this interest and include it in our cooperative learning activities. Not only can students learn cooperatively with students in their class, but they can now work cooperatively with anyone with an internet connection.


References


Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2010). Program eight. Social learning theories [Webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Baltimore, MD: Author.


Palmer, G., Peters, R., & Streetman, R. (2003). Cooperative learning. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved March 26, 2012, from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Constructivist Theory


The constructivist/constructionist learning theories have become a hot topic in the education world over the last several years (Lever-Duffy & McDonald, 2008).  Piaget and Papert are two notable theorists contributing to these theories, which state the learning takes place when the learner actively constructs knowledge (Han & Bhattacharya, 2001).  Constructivism is theory of knowledge and constructionism is more of a theory of learning (Laureate, 2010).  In the education world, we focus more on the constructionism aspect and how we as educators can help students construct knowledge and understanding of the material.

Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, and Malenoski propose that technology strongly aids in student learning in terms of generating and testing hypotheses (2007).  The basic approach to this strategy includes students predicting, based on their own experiences and knowledge, the results of a problem, researching their predictions, and modifying their knowledge based on the results yielded by research.  In the field of language arts, we are discovering a push towards having students master the skill of informational text reading, as well as having students master the skills of research and informational writing. This shift in the paradigm of language arts is forcing—yet also allowing--the learner/student to predict, analyze, and solve the issues alluded to in the informational readings presented.  Moreover, it is forcing students to initiate process of research by first predicting the results and forming a hypothesis on the subject.  When students are engaged with the process of predict initial results, forming an original hypothesis from the information, and then researching the field of study, they are actually constructing knowledge through their experiences with the material--material that they will be forced to cross-reference in order to analyze the validity of the source and information.  Nevertheless, this type of strategy has strong ties to the constructionist theory. 

The constructionist approach actually combines aspects of behaviorism and cognitivism.  In generating and testing hypothesis, students are receiving reinforcement or punishment as to whether their predictions are correct or incorrect based on testing their hypotheses.  In addition, elaboration theory of cognitivism is based upon making connections to prior knowledge, which is what the learner is doing in making predictions.  The idea of predicting is allowing students to become more focused in not only their research, but also in their gathering of information.  So while three different theories exist, aspects of each are shared, and in reality parts of all three may be accurate.

References

Han, S., and Bhattacharya, K. (2001). Constructionism, Learning by Design, and Project Based Learning. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved 3-21-2012 from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2010). Program seven. Constructionist and constructivist learning theories [Webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Lever-Duffy, J., & McDonald, J. (2008). Theoretical foundations (Laureate Education, Inc., custom ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cognitive Tools...


Similar to behaviorism, in the cognitive learning theory there are a variety of variations.  The similarities include the idea that information is received through the senses and stored in short-term memory until it is rehearsed and moved to long-term memory (Laureate, 2010a).  Aspects that various researchers have contributed to the cognitive learning theories include duel coding and elaboration among others.  These contributions are focused in the attempt to get students to transfer information from their short-term memory to their long-term memory.  With the cognitive learning theories come a couple different instructional strategies that have been found to be effective.
Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, and Malenoski present the idea of using cues, questions, and advance organizers as a means to move information from a learner’s short-term to long-term memory.  The idea behind these instructional strategies is that students find a way to connect the information they are learning with information that they already know (2007).  This follows along the lines of elaboration theory.  Dr. Orey explains that in making connections, the learner is more likely to be able to recall information (Laureate, 2010a).  Concept mapping and advance organizers both allow students to connect information they already know with what they are learning. 
A second instrucational strategy that Pitler et al. encourages educators to use is summarizing and note taking (2007).  In using these, students are constantly analyzing and evaluating the importance of information they receive.  Through this rehearsal, students are able to move information from their short-term to their long-term memory.  These strategies also allow students to connect the information with information that they already know.  Once again the ideas of elaboration theory are met.  Students can also use their notes to summarize ideas through the use of concept maps.  Novak and Canas discuss cross-links in concept maps and how they are important for students to see how different domains of a concept maps are connected (2008).  In making connections, students are more able to recall the information.
Dr. Orey discusses the effectiveness of virtual field trips (Laureate, 2010b).  Students can now experience situations that they were not able to in the past due to the internet and other media.  By gaining formation by through reading, listening, and seeing pictures, the experience of virtual field trips gives the students information from multiple senses.  This idea was explored through duel coding theory, which states that the learner is more likely to recall information that was gained through multiple senses (Laureate, 2010a). 
Through exploring these instructional strategies, an educator should see the importance of making connections to previous experiences and gaining information through new experiences.  As an educator, one should look to incorporate such activities and strategies to help students move important information from short-term to long-term memory.
References:
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2010). Program five. Cognitive learning theory [Webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Baltimore, MD: Author.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2010). Program six. Spotlight on technology: Virtual field trips [Webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Baltimore, MD: Author.
Novak, J. D., & CaƱas, A. J. (2008). The theory underlying concept maps and how to construct and use them, Technical Report IHMC CmapTools 2006-01 Rev 01-2008. Retrieved from the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition Web site: http://cmap.ihmc.us/Publications/ResearchPapers/TheoryUnderlyingConceptMaps.pdf
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Behaviorism


Theorists Skinner, Thorndike, and Watson are all researchers who have helped build the learning theory of behaviorism (Smith, 1999). The theory is often summed up with the terms stimulus-response and operant conditioning. The learner is either positively reinforced for a good behavior or a proper response or punished for an unwanted behavior or improper response.  The concept of being punished for an improper response is misleading because of the term punished.  The idea of an incorrect response must be corrected immediately so that the proper behavior and thinking is ingrained. The idea behind behaviorism is to make sure incorrect (improper) thinking is eliminated, while correct thinking is rewarded. In school systems today, behaviorist theories are applied most commonly with student discipline (Standridge, 2002).

Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, and Malenoski discuss the importance of reinforcing effort in the classroom. Behind the concept lie the notions that if students are made aware of their effort, track their progress, and receive feedback from an instructor, their classroom performance increases (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, and Malenoski, 2007). By applying numerical values to the aspects of effort, which include attention, participation, and studying among others, students are able to track a correlation between their effort and their grade. This applies itself to the behaviorist theory as the strategy provides students—hopefully immediately--with feedback, either positive or negative, that in return directs them to the different areas of effort that need improvement. Poor grades are the punishment of poor effort. If the student desires passing grades, their effort, or behavior, needs to change. While the focus is on giving the student a correlation between their effort and their grades, the reinforcement aspect of this strategy falls into the behaviorism category of learning theories.  The true struggle—when applying behaviorism--is having the backing of the school district when implementing this time of mannerism into the classroom. 

A second strategy that Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn and Malenoski involves homework and practice. Several guidelines and recommendations are presented, but the idea of homework and practice hinges on a reference to Marzano’s finding that a skill needs to be practices 24 times to reach an 80% mastery level (Pitler, et al., 2007). However, key to practice and homework lies in the feedback. If students complete 24 problems incorrectly, they would have mastered a skill incorrectly. Furthermore, if feedback is provided immediately upon completion then if a student does 24 problems correctly and is aware that they were correct there is a realization that the skill has been mastered.  If feedback, positive reinforcement, or punishment is not being provided it may be more damaging to the development of the skill. The importance of feedback falls directly in line with the behaviorist theory.

As both instructional strategies indicate, feedback from the instructor is important for both tracking effort and reinforcing its effects.  Feedback is also beneficial for reinforcing skills through homework and practice. Without the positive reinforcement or punishment, both of these strategies fall short of being beneficial for students. Both are commonly used in education today and have been found to have success as Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, and Malenoski have discussed (2007).

References

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Standridge, M.. (2002). Behaviorism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved March 6, 2012, from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt.

Smith, K. (1999). The behaviourist orientation to learning. In The encyclopedia of informal education. Retrieved from http://www.infed.org/biblio/learning-behavourist.htm.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Reflection...


Reflection


With the new 21st century skills ad Common Core Standards the foundation of education is changing. With this fundamental shift in pedagogy, the expectations of educators are changing too. No longer is the educator the only source of information as students have unlimited resources through the Internet (Laureate, 2010b). Therefore, the role of the educator has changed from provider to facilitator of information. It is now essential to provide students with the skills needed to be successful in the 21st century. Through this course I have developed a new understanding of technology in the classroom, but also how to implement the technology for my students to develop 21st century skills.

When starting this course I was acclimated with blogs, podcasts, and wikis, but I was struggling attempting to implement them in my English classroom.  My inability to implement these types of technology were hindered by my school district not allowing us to us any form of technology other than a Moodle.  From the very start of this course I discovered new uses for all three, and more importantly the uses are to do different things, not just doing things differently (Thornburg, 2004). In my sports literature course, discussions can take place about particular questions on blogs; moreover, that discussion can lead into more research done by the students to complete a wiki on a particular subject matter.  I see much value in podcasts in many subject areas, but in an English classroom I see it as very beneficial. I would like to use this technology to have students read a short story they would like their classmates to hear or to set-up a podcast to discuss ideas on literature. Creating a course wiki would be productive in an English classroom. One of several key 21st century skills is collaboration. In creating a wiki, students are required to work together to edit each other’s work in order to create a published product. In subsequent years, a class can edit the wiki of previous classes as well as use the information in their studies. These technologies would become resources for other students while allowing the current students to reflect on what they are learning.

All of these technologies allow students to have more autonomy of their learning, creating a transition from a teacher-centered classroom to a teacher-facilitator classroom. In addition, activities that allow students to problem solve use technology to find answers, whether it is websites, blogs, or video chats, students are gaining the 21st century skill of life-long learning. Especially in an English class, the content of a novel is not always the most important aspect of the lesson, but the critical thought it takes from the student to apply that information in a unique and original way is where these technologies can drastically change the dynamics of learning. By having students at the forefront of their own learning, you are actually allowing them to teach themselves how to learn. This allows them to make mistakes, learn from them, and try again, something that is fundamental to problem solving.

In the next two years, I have set two goals to aid in transforming my role from instructor into a facilitator. First, I will have all students participating in a class wiki where students will add and edit the work done by the previous class. I will start the wiki in the first year with the help of my students, and by the second year, students will be responsible for editing and adding sections dealing discussions in the classroom and ideas on the writing process. My second goal—this will be much more difficult to complete because of the resistance of my district--is to shift completely away from textbook-lecture style classroom—I am already accomplishing this in my Sports Literature course-- to an internet-interactive classroom where students are building on knowledge from the previous year and units to learn new concepts, and then apply those concepts to solve real world scenarios. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills among others recognizes the importance of involving businesses and individuals within the community to apply classroom learning, so I will include such people in projects, whether for feedback or sharing what is needed to be successful. In the next year, I will need to perfect how to balance time away from a computer with the limited time on a computer. This would include having students use their cell phone technology (Laureate, 2010a).

When I began this course, I rarely used student-centered activities, technology used by students, or talked with students about technologies they use frequently. Over the last month I have incorporated two activities that have allowed students to work together to strengthen their writing and understanding of the importance of creating publishable work. Students have been asked to submit all of their essay writing onto the classroom blog—the idea of a blog has created such excitement from my students that a few have designed their own blogs. Regardless, students gained important experience through the activities, and more importantly, I found ways to get students actively involved in their learning. I can say that I have successfully begun my transition from an information-teacher to an information-facilitator.

References:

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2010). Program number 1: The emergence of educational technology [DVD]. Understanding the impact of technology on education, work, and society. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2010). Program number 13: Today's students [DVD]. Understanding the impact of technology on education, work, and society. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Thornburg, D. (2004). Technology and education: Expectations, not options. (Executive Briefing No. 401). Retrieved from http://www.tcpdpodcast.org/briefings/expectations.pdf

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Partnership for 21st Century Skills...


I have recently been introduced to an organization that is attempting to revolutionize schools across the country. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21) was formed by the individuals and organizations to advocate for change in policy. The basis for these changes come down to “fusing the three Rs and four Cs (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity and innovation).” While many schools are attempting to follow this model, many others are not. The P21 is attempting to get policy passed at the state and federal level that require all schools to adopt this model. While I have not necessarily heard of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, I have heard of initiatives that the state of Ohio has supported in Gateway to Technology and Project Lead the Way. Both of these programs focus on the foundation of P21.

I believe that if you ask most teachers, they are attempting to cover the three Rs and the four Cs. Educators want their students to not only be able to read, write, and compute, but also to apply those skills to problem solve, communicate, and collaborate. While these are the wishes of teachers, I do not think it's necessarily the primary goal of most schools. I've been involved in two school systems, and both were more concerned with students passing state tests and graduation rates than with the quality of student they were graduating. After reading Characteristics of a Globally Competitive Workforce by Bates and Phelan, it was clear that focusing solely on the content of the three Rs sets students up for failure as they consider these only one part of three foundational skills (2002). According to the Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS), the three Rs along with thinking skills and personal qualities are the foundational skills for today's workers (Bates & Phelan, 2002). If schools are focusing solely on reading, writing, arithmetic, and science, students are not even getting the full foundation for employability skills.

If schools are not setting for the foundation mentioned in the SCANS study, it is evident that something like P21 is a necessity for our country. With pressure coming from the federal and state government on school districts, teachers are getting more pressure to get students prepared. And what suffers? It's the critical thinking skills, the application projects, the collaboration, and the technology skills. A common phrase that is unfortunately uttered a lot, “We need to get them familiar with the testing scenario.” This actually contradicts what the research has said about 21st century skills. Students aren't collaborating, they aren't thinking critically, and they aren't engaged in technology. The latter has now become so essential that SCANS made it one of its five competencies every worker should have upon graduating high school (Bates & Phelan, 2002). If our students are to be technologically literate, we cannot have students spending “27 hours a week online at home and an average of 15 minutes a week at schools” (Miners & Pascopella, 2007). Obviously, we are failing these students.

What does this mean for us educators? We need to find a way to work within our school's expectations to revolutionize what we're doing in our classrooms. We do need to get students familiar with testing; however, we also need to prepare our students for the workplace. We need to teach the content, but then go on to challenge our students with problems and scenarios that require students to sharpen their critical thinking skills. We need to have students working together, communicating, and problem solving. While doing this, students need to be engaged in technology familiarizing themselves with different tools that may benefit them in future jobs. The P21 website contains a whole library of videos that educators can use as ideas of what they can include in their classroom to help develop these 21st century skills.

References:

Bates, R., & Phelan, K. (2002). Characteristics of a globally competitive workforce. Advances in Developing Human Resources, 4(2), 121.

Miners, Z., & Pascopella, A. (2007). The new literacies. District Administration, 43(10), 26–34. Used by permission.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Blogs in the Classroom


If my students were able to access my blog, blogs are currently blocked at my school we are being told to use the district’s Moodle system instead of blogs and wikis, during the school day then there would be a much greater opportunity to utilize the blog as an organic extension of the course through discussions that could continue on the blog.  However, since access would be limited for the students, I would implement the use of the blog as an avenue of publication for my students.  Since I teach seniors in a course entitled Sports Literature I am constantly preaching to them the idea of a completed paper being one that is ready to be published.  A blog would offer me an avenue to share the work of my students with a wider audience than just myself, and the idea would reinforce the concept of publishable work.

Moreover, I would attempt to offer my information for my students because the construction of a blog offers the opportunity to interact with material presented in the classroom, but at the same time to interact with new material presented on the blog.  In order to have students feel most comfortable interacting with one another on the blog, I would design a question of the week where students would be given until Sunday to respond to the question and to their peers.  Questions could vary from “Who had a greater impact on the acceptance of black athletes into professional sports Joe Louis or Jack Johnson?” or “In your opinion, throughout the history of sports, who or what was the greatest sports changing moment and why?”

Furthermore, I envision the blog as a way of posting more references for my students to use in order to understand the content.  Even if they are not interested with the week’s topic in the course posting references can familiarize them with different sports writers, acclimate them with different writing styles, and allow them to understand the impact each writer has had on the perception of sports and athletes in our country.  And as the writers change from era to era, my students will be able to witness first hand how journalistic writing changed after the television was invented. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Incorporating Technology...

This is my first time creating an educational blog.  I am curious about the extent and overall quality of collaboration that can occur with this type of information sharing.  I feel like this type of forum can/will be more extensive than others used in the past.