Saturday, June 22, 2013


I have to admit, that at the beginning of this course, I had my doubts. I was born in 1990, and 2 years later, the Internet was available to consumers. I do not remember a time when there was not a computer in my household. I’ve never really not been around technology, and I’ve always been very logical and very good at figuring it out. When I heard that this course was basically technology for educators, I admit that I sort of wrote it off as a bunch of stuff I already knew with the SmartBoard thrown in. Now, I admit I was wrong.
I felt like this course was a great model of differentiation. I started the course confident with my abilities in technology, sort of “Technologically Gifted” and I felt that the expectations were proportional to our ability for most of the assignments, and that I was able to use what I already knew to learn new things about technology in the classroom. Nobody was penalized for their inexperience or held back by their experience.
I think the project that will be the most useful is probably the interactive whiteboard project. While I don’t know if I’ll ever be in a classroom using an interactive whiteboard, I really appreciated the opportunity to learn this technology hands on and get to use it. There were a few hassles along the way, but in the end I felt I had created a very effective lesson and presentation.
I also feel that my biggest change throughout this class was likely my perspective of technology in the classroom. I’ve always thought that technology has a place in the classroom, and now I feel even surer of that. I do, however recognize an aspect that I had not thought of before. Yes, these kids may come in already knowing how to use computers or iPads, or whatever future technology awaits us, but our job isn’t to teach students how to use technology. Rather, our job is to teach students how to use this technology to learn. We can do this with many of the resources we learned about throughout this course. I think I came in expecting to learn about technology, but really I learned how to teach others about technology and using technology. 
Looking back at my previous posts, I feel that my goal from the beginning was to have a blog entry each week that would be on a subject different from the other class blogs, but taking the perspective of the class. In that sense I think I definitely succeeded. I felt that having that goal in mind challenged me beyond the expectations of the assignment, and I learned a lot of interesting things researching some of these topics!
I guess to close I’ll do what I do best, and write a sonnet about it!

As this summer session draws to an end,
I reflect on what I’ve learned in this class.
I thought we’d learn how an email does send,
But we focused on much more complex tasks!

I thought myself a tech know-it-all,
But still this course really helped me to learn
From writing on a class Edmodo wall
To a Flat Classroom grant trying to earn

Who knows if I'll ever have a smart board?
but I think that I'm prepared to use one!
Not on a level to win an award,
but my class certainly would have some fun 

Well, as you can see, this class is now done,
but on Monday we start another one!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

I Can See Clearly Now

While looking into the Evernote browser extension for Chrome, I ran across another Evernote product called Clearly. Not only does Clearly allow the reader to clip and highlight articles, but it also makes them much easier to read. I have ADHD, and reading online has always been a problem for me because articles are usually presented either surrounded by ads and links or in tiny single spaced font. Clearly strips away all the distracting aspects and presents the text in an easily readable manner. I think this could be especially helpful for a student who is easily distracted read an article online, or even help print better handouts from an online article that does not have a specific print view. Honestly I think this will help me a lot, and I'm really glad I ran across it!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Managing it All

So as anyone who has subscribed to my blog via RSS feed may have noticed, I accidentally posted a post intended for my other blog on this blog. While there was by no means anything inappropriate about this post, a sonnet about having a bad morning has nothing to do with technology and education, but thinking about it, this does bring up a good point: how do we manage all of this content?
There are two main questions I have regarding this:
How do we make sure to keep up with all of these digital resources? and
How do we keep our personal digital persona separate from the professional?

Keeping Up

We have learned about so many great resources in this course such as VoicethreadningGlogster, and many others. All of these resources have unique potential, and all have the potential to be used together for effective instruction, so how do we keep up with it all?
One solution to this web2.0 overload would be to limit the sites that students are asked to use for assignments. The teacher could set the medium for each project. The students could still get a chance to use wide variety of tools, but would not have the freedom to select a web2.0 tool that he or she felt appropriate for the project at hand.
A great solution for teachers who want their students to be able to choose the tools they use would be Edmodo. With an Edmodo group for the class, students could post links to their web2.0 creations so that they would all be in one place. This way the teacher and other students wouldn't have to worry about emailing links to each other or visiting different blogs, and every student could use the tool that he or she thought best for the task at hand.
These are certainly not the only options, but are two very different ways in which teachers can try to manage the massive amount of information and tools they may use.

Keeping Out

Today social media is almost a requirement of social interaction. Whether Facebook, Instagram, or a personal blog, I'm fairly certain everyone reading this has at least one form of social presence on the internet. Even if we do not post anything on these sites that would be inappropriate, these profiles can be personal, and it's not unreasonable not to want students to know every aspect of your life. While teachers are not allowed to add students on social networks such as Facebook in many school districts, students may still be able to see some parts of your profile. So how do we keep this separate from the web tools we use in school?
One important thing is to always check your privacy settings. Log out of the account in question and see what you can still see. Anyone on the internet can see this, so make sure any personal information is hidden. Another important tip is to use a different email address than those students use to contact you. This way students will not accidentally encounter personal posts or information when searching for things related to school.
The alternative is to be open and share this information with students. Sharing a personal blog could create an atmosphere of openness and trust in the classroom. To be fair, however, I'm not sure I would want my students knowing everything about my life outside of school. Even if it's not something that I would want to hide necessarily, I would want to maintain some degree of personal privacy.

So what do you think?
How do you keep up and keep out? How do you plan to in the future? Would you want your students reading a blog about your personal life?

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Net Neutrality and Education

I was talking with a friend of mine who works in the IT field the other day, and the topic of Net Neutrality came up. This is a very controversial and divisive issue that seems to challenge the ideas of free speech and free enterprise. I started thinking about Curtis Bonk's open world and the effects that a lack of net neutrality could have on all these openers as well as the relationship to education and educational technology. I wondered if anyone had written about this specific issue.

So first of all, what is net neutrality? Above all, net neutrality seems to be something that is very difficult to find an unbiased description of. Most sources have either a very positive or very negative opinion about this issue. Net neutrality is the idea that all information on the internet should be of equal priority. This is the current state of the internet, all alternative ideas remain hypothetical for now. The alternative, commonly called tiered internet, would allow service providers to give certain companies or partners a higher "tier" or level of accessibility by allowing customers to access these sites or services through a "fast lane" of data. While data would not be physically separated, this means that traffic to these higher tier websites would be given priority to proceed above other traffic. On the other side, users who wished to access non-favored websites would be more likely to meet errors or slow connections. This means that on the metaphorical highway of the internet, if two cars wanted to get into the same lane at the same time, the one that was traveling to the sponsored destination would have the right of way, and the other car would have to yield.

The issue is less about whether this is a good or a bad idea, and more about where the law comes down. Should the government be able to protect the rights of all people to have the equal opportunity to be heard at the cost of restricting free enterprise?

So what does this all mean for education? Thinking about this, I immediately thought of Bonk's open world and wondered if a world where internet providers have control over the accessibility of information would really be so open. Being that this is yet to be implemented, this is only my speculation. I think that tiered internet access could go in two different directions in terms of education:

Best Case Scenario:
Tiered internet will not be as dramatically disabling of bottom tier sites as speculated. During peak usage, users may experience occasional lag or loading errors, but will not experience serious service disruption. Teachers and students will still have easy access to online resources despite these small errors, and will continue to use new and existing online resources.

Worst Case Scenario:
Hypothetically the paid resource sites could pay to be top tier leaving free resources backed up. If tiered internet has as dramatic an effect as some speculate, accessing some sites could become very difficult and yield loading errors much of the time. Sure we would still have access to these resources, but would they be worth using if the connection was not reliable?  If Amazon loaded quickly, but Open Library had an unreliable connection, would teachers use resources from open library? I speculate that students would likely be willing to wait through longer load times, but that teachers may be less likely to choose these options as a result, and less funding and focus may be put on these options if they are not  used.

So what do I think? Honestly I'm not sure. I don't know if tiered internet access would destroy these open resources or not really affect it, but I don't see it adding anything positive. I also don't think that tiered internet is necessarily the next step in web development. If one provider maintained net neutrality while others moved to a tiered model, I believe that the neutral provider would have a significant advantage in business that could easily make up the amount of money earned by providers selling top-tier service. It's a lot to think about, and it might not even happen.

So I apologize for this monster of a post, but tell me what you think! Would you as a teacher use a resource that did not load reliably if it had good content? Do you think it will even come to that?

Edmodo Infographic

Click for larger view

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Warren New Tech High School

Warren New Tech High School
Taken from
This weekend, a few coworkers and I traveled to Lake Gaston. On the way, we passed a school called Warren New Tech High School One of my coworkers mentioned that her nephew had gone there, and that the students spent their days in computer labs taking web-based classes. After we arrived at the house and got settled in, I noticed a book sitting under one of the side tables called Ferry Tales and Other Lake Gaston Folklure, written by the students of Warren New Tech High School. The students interviewed lifelong residents and compiled a history of the area. I knew that I needed to do some more research about this school when I got home. I had a few questions about this school that I wanted to be able to answer.

The first question that lingered with me for most of the weekend was why these students went to a physical building to do mostly web based learning. There are only 14 teachers at this school for more than 200 students. Surely these classes could be to the students at home. Did they really need to come to the physical building 5 days a week? I did not need the internet to answer this question. On the way home, I looked at the environment a little more closely. This school is situated in a very rural, high poverty area. Chances are that many of the students attending this school do not have a computer at home with a fast enough internet connection to stream video and participate in online class. This also means that these students have likely not had some of the same experiences with technology as their age group peers living in more affluent areas. Clearly this building is no waste of space, rather a valuable resource for students who want to be able to compete in a world that requires use of technology to be successful, but might not be able to afford to do so on their own.

The cover of Ferry Tales and Other Lake Gaston Folklure
Taken from
My next question was about how the classes are taught at WNTHS. My coworker knew that it was mostly computer-based, but did not know much more about this. While the school's website does not describe the classroom or computer lab settings, it does describe the school as using Project Based Learning (PBL) to help students learn 21st century skills including early college coursework and leadership. This is where the book really started to make sense. While writing this book, students must have learned to use and apply a wide variety of the 21st century skills that the school seeks to instill. For example, the students must have learned to ask appropriate interview questions and edit the responses in a manner that fit the stories in the book. The students also needed to use publishing software to both compose and format the book for publishing. The book is available in a few online sources and also in local businesses, which means that students had to work with these businesses and websites to sell the book that they had created.  Other projects the students do include creating and presenting business ideas and models. All of these projects teach students how to use these skills they are learning in contexts which they may encounter in their later careers.

This idea of PBL reminded me of the Participatory Learning Culture (PLC) that Curtis Bonk mentions in the introduction to The World is Open. These students are learning these skills by using them, and this is one of the trends in education that has resulted from the use of technology. I think that WNTHS is a great example of implication of participatory learning at the high school level. I wonder what Bonk would think about this school?

WNTHS is a very interesting school, and I'm glad that we drove past it. I do, however, still have a few questions about this school. I don't think I will find an answer to these questions, but they are interesting to think about, so to close I leave you with this:

  1. I could not find any data about the demographics or performance of the students at WNTHS high school or in Warren County Schools. These students may be succeeding at their projects, but are they succeeding on EOCs or SATs? Are they getting into college after graduation?
  2. Does it really matter whether these students have good test scores? They're clearly learning valuable skills, and as much as that should be enough, is it?
  3. How are the classes administered? Do the teachers simply used web-based instruction resources such as blackboard, or do the students also participate in online classes through other institutions?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The World is Open

Reading the supplementary materials to the book The World is Open: How Web Technology is Revolutionizing Education by Curtis J. Bonk has given some interesting insight into the book, and has created an interesting framework. I have not yet had a chance to read the entire book, but will definitely keep these things in mind as I continue to read. A few thoughts and questions I have after reading the supplementary materials and introduction to this book:

  1. Regarding the rights and responsibilities of all learners: What role does the teacher have in facilitating these rights? For example, one of the rights of all learners is to learn when and how you want in a comfortable environment. I took this to mean that while a student may not learn exclusively in this way in the sense that he or she must still meet educational standards, he or she should have the right to do as little or as much additional research as he or she would like. Does the teacher need to provide the time for students to learn in any way they want from anyone they choose or should it be up to the students to find this time? If a teacher knows that the student has no access to a computer or the internet at home, is her or she obligated to find a way to give the student this opportunity? Students must take responsibility for their own learning, but how much should teachers help them in finding the means to take that responsibility?
  2. In the postscript, Bonk assesses the role of of formal and informal learning and predicts that in the future there will be more of both. He goes on to say that while people will likely seek more formal learning for a longer amount of time, informal learning will take on a more important role. He suggests that these processes will feed each other as more formal learners will share their learning with informal learners. I can definitely see and understand this conclusion, but what role will this informal learning take? While I may be able to find nearly any information online, what use will it have. I wonder if this will affect the role of formal instruction. Will a company be more likely to hire a person with a degree if another person has studied all the same information and demonstrated the same aptitudes? This would be a difficult question to answer absolutely, but I think it would be interesting to hear Dr. Bonk's predictions.

To close, I would like to share one quote from the introduction to the book that really spoke to me:

"What is interesting today is that with the emergence of the Web, we can go from a live experience during the day, and a few hours later record it for near-eternity in a blog posting or Web site entry." 

While this quote didn't raise any specific questions for me, I find that it really sums up how large of an impact the internet has had. I can't even begin to estimate the blogs I have read or youtube videos that I have watched and learned from. Without the internet, these people would only be able to share this information with people they had direct contact with, and I almost certainly would have never learned this information. As Bonk says later "Anyone can now learn anything from anyone at anytime." I believe that he is right. Learning is no longer confined to the school you live closest to, or the teachers who are on staff at that school, or even the books which that school can afford. For better or for worse, learning is becoming more available and more global, and to be effective teachers we cannot ignore this fact.