Blog 12: Enhanced Podcasting and EdReach        

Liz Kolb’s Enhanced Podcasts: A New Twist on an Old Tool, though published in 2008, is full of ideas on how to use podcasts (sound recordings) with videos and text.  She also gives instructions on how to make enhanced podcasts using Power Point and Movie Maker. 

Next school year, I will be writing a weekly class blog, including photos and videos of class activities.  Our school uses Windows, and with the assignments we have been doing in ED554, I’m sure I’ll be able to make some really good quality podcasts to add to the blog.

Which brings me to EdReach and the podcasts they put out.  Although there were quite a few EdReach podcast titles that interested me, not very many of them were well made enough for me to watch through to the end.  For example, I was very interested in the Wilderness Classroom, but the audio and the camera angles were not the best quality; I did not finish any of the virtual field trips.  Others were informative, but rather boring.  Although in color and viewed through the internet, some of the videos were reminiscent of the old projector films some of us might have slept through in high school.

That being said, the one that I did find most informative was Google Educast, which featured Google Certified Teachers (I’m not sure how one becomes a Google Certified Teacher) who talked about new apps, new products, keyboard strokes, and other Google-related topics.  Their podcasts are archived and annotated, so one can scroll through their catchy (kitschy?) titles.   

In the future, when I have more time on my hands, I will most likely continue checking in on Educast to watch their almost-hour-long videos.  They will be a good source for keeping abreast of what’s happening in the world of technology. 

Podcasts are a great way of teaching.  However, the quality of the podcast will determine what students and teachers get from the podcasts.  Just like any other teaching tool, the podcast will work if it gets students (and teachers) excited about learning, exploring, and discovering.


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Blog 11: Build a School in the Cloud

About four years ago, I heard about Sugata Mitra’s Hole in the Wall Project while working at an Episcopal school, and the administration was all fired up about equipping the students with computers.  Unfortunately, they did not explain the premise of the experiment completely and missed the point of having teachers act as facilitators and mediators.  They did increase the number of computers in the classroom, and the middle school and upper school students are using them for their everyday work.  However, the teachers still direct most of what and how the students learn.

Professor Mitra’s experiments showed how productive children can be when they work together to figure out things that are interesting to them. He aligned this with cavemen looking up at the stars and talking about “those twinkling lights” in the sky.  He advocates letting children explore and learn together; he promotes self-organizing learning environments, places where children can work in groups and access the internet, with the help of “British grandmothers” or the Granny Cloud. 

The idea of a teacher (or granny) setting the learning in motion, sitting back to let the students explore and discover, then giving them encouragement whenever they figure something out sounds radical.  But I believe it’s the way that children were taught life and survival skills before formal schools were established.  This time around, though, instead of sitting together by the fire, granny is miles away in front of her computer while the children are gathered around theirs.

Maybe, when I grow up I’ll be a granny in the cloud.  But for now, I’ll be helping my students explore together out in nature, in the classroom, and in front of the iPad.  Who knows what they’ll discover?

Self Organizing Learning Environment Toolkit (pdf)

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Blog 10: Blogging   

We’re supposed to summarize or showcase one resource that we found via our social learning services.  One of the parenthesized options was BLOGS, and that’s what I’m blogging about.

When we started class, I was not sure how I’d do as a blogger.  I watched Blogs in Plain English*  to try and understand what blogging entailed.  Now that we’re in the middle of our semester of Computer and Technology, I’m still not comfortable blogging, mainly because after clicking the POST button, I always think, “Oh, I should have said this,” or “Hmm, maybe, I should have written it this way.”

I know that I will be starting a classroom blog in the fall. Parents love seeing what their little ones are up to, and I hope to show them what we do in class and learn from the responses, too.  Blogging is a great way of spreading good news, and through the comments section, a great way of receiving feedback from the parents.

I used to write a weekly newsletter when I was lead teacher.  Now, I’ll be creating a blog.  I’ll be including photos of the students’ art as well as videos of planned and unplanned moments in the classroom.  I will also be able to hyperlink news articles that may be of interest to the parents and grandparents of my students.

The internet still seems like a vast, uncharted ocean to me.  But in this class, I’m being forced to venture out into that ocean.  Fortunately, there’s a good, strong captain guiding the boat, and I’m sure that by the start of the fall semester, I’ll be paddling steadily along on my own.


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Blog 9: Thoughts on Cecilia Kang’s High-tech vs. no-tech: D.C. area schools take opposite approaches to education

Here we go again.  Do schools have to be all or nothing? Cecilia Kang’s article shows us the two polar opposites of what should be a balanced approach to teaching. If plotted on a graph, Washington Waldorf School would be on one end of the bell curve, and Flint Hill School would be on the other end.  Most schools would fall inside the bell, balancing between high-tech and no-tech.

Being a digital toddler myself, I was happy to be reminded that not all schools are embracing technology full on and that I have the option to wade into cyberspace and not dive into it.  Learning about what is available out there is important, but we must also use what is around us in the physical world.  We must remember that there are children that learn by using their senses of touch, taste, and smell, who need to experience the world in reality rather than virtually.

I appreciated what Michael Rich, director of the Center on Child Media and Health at Harvard University, said: “We have to stop and think if we are embracing technology just because it is there and new or if it is the best tool for what we want to accomplish.”  Much like our current lesson plan assignment, we have to think whether the technology we are adding to the plans truly enhances the learning or if it’s just to use an iPad or the internet.

This article cited studies that supported both ends: technology increasing children’s vocabulary as well as its decreasing their attention span.  It shows how the two Ninas are similar while growing in two different environments.  Moreover, it shows how the two environments are similar, too.  Students make decisions about what to do when they become bored with the class. Passing notes happens in both schools; they just don’t use paper at Flint Hill.

What it boils down to is that parents have a choice.  It is up to them to decide where they stand, to choose the right school for their own children, and to advocate for their children.

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Strengthening the love for the school community strengthens the love of learning.  Making school a place where one belongs makes the child want to keep coming back.

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One Teacher’s Brilliant Strategy to Stop Bullying

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Blog 5: Empowerment

Even after watching Scott McLeod’s Ted Talk, I am still wary about letting children loose on technology.  Nowhere in his talk did he mention parental guidance.

Yes, the children he cited in his talk did accomplish amazing feats through technology.  Yes, they used their creativity and passion to solve problems.  But did they do it on their own?  Was there a supportive parent/guardian in the background?  Was there someone who encouraged them?

The video raised a lot of yellow flags: At nine years old, Martha used HER phone to take photos and create her blog.  She had her own phone!?!  Did you see Emma’s room? What does it say about her identity? Even Maude’s profile shows her ambiguity; it reads in part, “addicted to technology, even though she knows it’s destroying her.” Isn’t there anyone that helps her address her self-professed addiction?

Another thing I’m pondering is how these children, like the teens in Generation Like, equate their popularity (as evidenced by the number of likes) with a sense of success.  Do they experience an intrinsic feeling of a job well done, or is it based on visual, extrinsic validation?

There is no question that what the children did were extraordinary, not to mention financially profitable.  These children were disciplined enough to work on their projects, continue working on them over a period of time and over obstacles (as in Martha vs. the School Council).  It would be great to foster students with this kind of work ethic.  But are all students ready for this?  Going back to Generation Like, if a school let someone like Steven Fernandez create videos the way he does, what can of worms would that open?


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