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Podcasts

Wesley Fryer discusses many professional development topics for educators, including the integration of technology, in his podcast, Moving at the Speed of Creativity. I listened to Podcast 381: Reach for the Stars Using Media in Your Classroom. Fryer gives a brief introduction to the podcast, which is a recording of a keynote address he gave in Concord, New Hampshire.

Fryer begins speaking about the importance of media and technology to students. Today’s student is totally immersed in these things. They are influenced by it everyday. Teachers should embrace this, because it’s only going to continue to grow and expand. Educators are responsible for helping young people learn to use technology appropriately. Technology often gets a bad reputation for the negative things that it is used for. It is up to teachers to change this perception. Fryer proposes that teachers share online at least one student digital text project, one student image project, one student audio project, one student video project, and one student collaborative project.

Next, he discusses current events in technology. He emphasizes e-books, and e-book readers. This is a technology that is quickly taking over the use of paper books. Fryer finds it important for teachers to try this technology for themselves.  Next he helps illuminate what technologies are beneficial for different types of classroom projects. For example, I Pads have many great uses in the classroom, but typing an essay isn’t one of them. Google Chromebook is another recent technology discussed in this podcast. This is a notebook designed for browsing the web at high speeds. Other benefits include long battery life and increased security.

Creativity is another key idea in Fryer’s podcast. He discusses the importance of letting students be creative and make things in order to facilitate their learning. He also stresses the importance of documenting and sharing these ideas. Collaboration is very important to successful education. Teachers need to discuss with each other what works and what doesn’t.

Fryer inspires teachers to challenge their students with media and technology. He gives some examples of incredible technology and media projects created by students. Most of the projects were created by 7th grade students. Teacher’s are ready he claims, to teach students how to use technology. They do not have to be masters, though mastery will come with practice.

 

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RSS Readers

RSS technology is useful when using student blogs. It allows you to easily see when students have updated their blogs. This saves a lot of time for teachers who would normally have to continually check each student blog to see if they had posted their assignment yet. Another useful application would be to set up a feed of useful subscriptions and resources that students can follow. I really like the idea of creating a news search feed for students. This is a way to keep the class up-to-date on topics that are being covered in class. Being able to discuss current events that are related to the class is a way to keep students interested. It also gets them used to following current events, forming their own opinions on them, and discussing them. When students read about a current event that is related to the class, it gives them an opportunity to participate by starting or joining in a conversation about it.  RSS technology can also be used to compile useful website, blogs, and other resources. You can create a feed for bookmarking relevant classroom resources for students to refer to when needed.

This technology enables teachers to expand their students thinking beyond the classroom. Students gain knowledge on their own time, outside of the classroom. It encourages them to make connections from the class to the real world. It is also a way to get them interested in topics in the class. Students are more likely to read and be interested in something that is found on the web, than a handout or other printed material that is handed out in  class.

I’m currently using Google Reader to follow blogs of fellow students in this classroom. I subscribed to Tracey Mahler, Lauren Faine, Kaylan Griffith, Keith Fischer, and Kathleen Crates.

New Technology

SMART Classroom Suite logo with screen shots

I’ve been fortunate enough to gain valuable classroom experience as a substitute at Findlay, Fostoria, and Bowling Green City Schools. One piece of technology that has stood out to me in at all of these schools is the SMART interactive white board system. The first time I saw this technology was as a student at OSU Marion in 2009, however I never saw any of my professors use it. When I began substituting, everyone was using it.  Being fairly comfortable around technology, I was able to pick up the basics and make it through class. I knew, though, that the SMART board could do a lot more than I understood.

After researching its capabilities, I am blown away at the amount of things that you can do with this technology. It makes it possible for teachers to have a fully technological classroom. Probably the most basic, yet useful, thing that is does is to work as a projector for the teacher’s computer. It can be used to show videos, documents, presentations, or demonstrations. It gets much more advanced than that, though. The white board is controlled by touch. It includes four different colored pens and an eraser that are all touch and light sensitive. The board uses a light sensor to detect which of the tools is being used. For example, if you pick up the red pen and move it across the screen, a red line will appear. Replace the pen, pick up the eraser and trace the same line and it disappears. This was one feature that took some getting used to. You can only use one tool at a time, two in some of the more advanced models. If you pick up more than one, it will only sense the first that you picked up.

I included a picture of the logo for SMART Classroom Suite, and a link to the specs page, because this software is what makes this an even more amazing machine.  One of my favorite features is the ability to project from the teacher’s computer to the students. This, again, is a great way to do demonstrations. In computer lab classrooms, it eliminates student distractions created by the computer. Another feature that aids classroom management is the ability to lock the students’ screens completely. The suite includes teacher tools with lesson and assessment creators, as well as progress tracking. The lesson that are created are interactive and everything is controlled by the touch screen or the teacher’s computer. This makes the lessons much more interesting for the students. It’s something that they will want to use too, so it generates more participation. It makes it possible for teachers to store all of their resources and classroom data in one spot. Taking full advantage of all the benefits of this program would allow me to seamlessly move through lessons and assessments, saving valuable instruction time. I would also be able to evaluate student performance, and my own performance, all from my computer.

From my point of view as a substitute, this system made it easier for me to follow exactly what the teacher would have done in my place. Everything was in one place, and it was as easy as it could possibly be to move from one thing to the next. This is something that I would want in my classroom. In the event that I’m unable to be in class, my substitute can easily navigate through my lesson plans and procedures. Not only does it prevent students from missing the lesson, it reduces behavior problems. Students are used to the routine that is created by using the SMART board daily.

Although this is a technology that many teachers already seem comfortable with, it is one that is new to me. I’m excited to learn more about it and to find an opportunity to use it for my own purposes. This is a system that I can definitely see myself using everyday in my classroom. I think that it is the type of program that works best when you take full advantage of all the feature it has to offer, which I full intend to do.

Why Educators Blog

I have found three excellent examples of secondary English teachers who blog regularly. I added all of them to my favorites bar so that I can keep up with them. They are inspirational, and they have a lot of resources.

I couldn’t find a picture of Mr. B-G on any of his blogs. I thought this online award he was nominated for was very fitting.

Mr. B-G is first, with his English Blog. Mr. B-G is a high school English teacher from Massachusetts. He is an avid blogger who maintains more than four blogs.  In addition to his English blog, he has blogs dedicated to student blogging, teacher resources, and journalism. He also maintains blogs for each of the classes that he teaches.

Mr B-G says that blogging has become entwined with nearly every aspect of his life and career. He uses blogging for student work, peer review, editing and revisions, and more during writing. Blogs enable students to easily revise and submit their work. Blogging has provided Mr B-G with a place to compile resources for his students, and for other teachers.  There are dozens of links on all of his blogs to other educational blogs and other useful websites that pertain to each subject. It also allows him to network with other teachers who can provide resources and support. Finally, it is a place to reflect on teaching in order to grow as an educator. It’s a place where he can express his success stories, as well as his frustration.

The next great blog I found is called Two Writing Teachers. As the title suggests, it’s written by both Ruth Ayres

Two Writing Teachers

and Stacey Shubitz. They  live over 500 miles apart, but they collaborate for conferences, books, and this blog. There goal is to support other teachers. They offer a place where teacher’s can “let their barriers down” and focus on professional development. Like Mr B-G, they also offer resources that they have discovered. They network with other teachers to share resources and offer support. It is also a way for them to reflect on their teaching -“celebrating when it goes well, and working it out when it doesn’t.” As writing teachers, they also think its important to model sharing and publishing their written work for their students.

Catlin Tucker

Catlin Tucker is another high school English teacher who takes advantage of blogging. She blogs for much of the same reasons as the previous three writers. Blogging serves as a way to reflect on her teaching, and to network with other teachers. Tucker’s blog is full of lesson plan ideas, useful websites and blogs, activities, and much more. It is a place where she can collaborate with other teachers. She can get and share ideas and feedback with them.

I have read a few blogs here and there, but never followed one regularly. These three blogs have been very inspiring to me. They are full of so many resources. I will use blogging in much the same way these teachers do. I will use it for my actual instruction. I think it is a way that students can easily edit, access, and submit their work. I can leave them feedback that they can see instantly. It make online class discussion possible. Blogging also makes class more interesting. Today’s students are very tech savvy. They will be more interested in a class that is geared more towards the use of technology. Because it’s something that they already know and love, they are more interested in the lessons and assignments.

I will also use blogging for my own professional development. I will network with other teachers to share ideas and get feedback on them. I think it is also important for teacher to be able to reflect on their lessons. Reflecting on accomplishments motivates and inspires us to continue to work for them. On the other hand, reflecting on shortcomings helps us to understand what we need to fix for the future. Getting support from other teachers is also important. Knowing that other teachers have struggled in the same areas is reassuring. It allows us to learn from others and to grow as an educator.

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