Saturday, January 28, 2006

Raw Materials for the Mind, pages 245-258

After blogging as much as we have this is nothing new to me. The Landmark-Project "Blogmeister" seems like a good tool, though I doubt I will try to mess with it this school year. Reading and editing students blogs maight not be any more difficult than grading papers, but on the surface I somehow suspect that it is.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Raw Materials for the Mind, pages 207-245

I can certainly attest to the fact that students tend to rebel, subtly or overtly, against doing any writing that doesn't fit into their idea of what is worthwhile. In fact, many students profess to feeling that all writing in school is pointless. Having experienced this far more than I like, it's certainly attractive to find a possible scenario in which students will be more intrinsically motivated to write thoughtfully and thoroughly.

On the subject of learning how through teaching, I don't really know how to include a wide variety of media in what I do on the computer. However, I am pretty sure that I'll learn to do this soon. I certainly want to make a WebQuest assignment for my classes. My constant complaint of "too much stress/not enough time" applies here again. But, hopefully, I will be able to get this done soon. It really wouldn't be too difficult to make one better than a lot of the WebQuests that I've seen. I will definitely check out the sites and resources listed in our book.

I haven't really had a chance to explore the different styes of webquest sites and the "slate" site discussed, but I am planning on (hopefully) using a webquest in my classes soon. I also plan on looking into the "who else" link through the pinet library for ideas or other links that will be useful to me. I already utilize the pinet library for my own link site.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Raw Materials for the Mind, pages 180-206

Honestly, a lot of this section falls into the "Greek to me" category. I definitely want to, need to, explore the applications about transferring images and audio from one format to another. Unfortunately, I haven't gotten around to doing this.

I definitely appreciate the citation information and the steps to follow to obtain proper permission for the use of information. I have mixed reactions to the concepts for implementing various types of internet information. Basically, I'm interested in the ideas that I can see applying to lessons in my own classes.

The last section introducing WebQuests is one that I want to investigate further. I really want to try designing and incorporating a WebQuest as a unit. The idea of doing so is daunting because I don't feel like I have the time; and if I spend any time on something that it turns out I can't find use for...

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Oversold and Underused

It is difficult for me to say whether or not computers in the school for which I work have been underused. I'd have to say almost certainly they have, but there are so few computers available that it makes it hard to tell. The only classroom that seems to have computers for students' use is (drum roll) the computer class. There is a computer lab in the library that can be reserved for your class, but it seems that most teachers just don't bother with the hassle. You can also check out a computer to use in the classroom, but this is also a hassle because the method for showing the screen to the class is problematic. Of course, I am so frazzled that my level of not wanting "the hassle" is higher than some other teachers.

To deal more closely with the article, I am certainly not surprised that computers haven't made any "fundamental change" in students' performance on test scores. I am told that the level of student motivation at my school is widely recognized as very poor. It seems that there is a culture of apathy that the teachers and administration have been trying to grapple with for years... and no one has found a workable solution.

I feel that many teachers simply do no feel that computers greatly enhance students' ability to learn whatever it is that is considered central to that class's curriculum. In response to "more professional development," this seems to be the answer to every teaching issue. Frankly, I am tired of professional development that is not sequenced in an order that is helpful to me. "Professional" development seems all over the board; and so scattered that I don't know what to do with it.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Technopoly, Chapter 4 - The Improbable World

Reflection on Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, by Neil Postman, ISBN 0-679-74540-8; pages 56-70.

I was very impressed by the intellectual power of this writing. It congealed a very large period of history in a way I have not heard before, and did so very effectively. I personally would not perform experiments with untruths on unsuspecting, innocent people as Postman says he did; but he makes a good point in illustrating how poorly most people employ critical-thinking skills.

The extension of this point is a powerful truth - the world we live in is so inundated with mind-boggling amounts of "information" that it has become virtually impossible to know very much about anything.

I found the author's example of an ordered versus a shuffled deck of cards (with the shuffled deck representing the chaotic nature of our current culture's "information" structure) very insightful.

In a side note, I find that this is also an excellent way of conceptualizing the difference between a good course of study and a poor one. As a first year teacher, I fear that my course outline (loosely termed) is far too shuffled to be very good. I have been scrambling to simply come up with decent lesson plans from day to day; and as far as them being well-ordered, and building a gradual and logical progression... well, I'll do better in the future.

The author's point is true - the problems of the world are not now due to a lack of information. We are assaulted by "information" from every angle. I am not a Buddhist, but I can certainly see the spiritual point in leading a simple, meditative life of "chopping wood, carrying water."

In a sense, information itself may well have become "the enemy." Our current world is built upon an ever-changing landscape of information. The question is, does this landscape allow anyplace where it is possible to put down roots?

This is an issue that I have thought about before. I have heard it discussed from various perspectives prior to reading this article. However, I had not heard or read this particular approach before, and I am very glad that I now have.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Positive Discipline in the Classroom, Chapters 3 and 9

Reflection on Positive Discipline in the Classroom, by Jane Nelsen Lynn Lott, and Stephen Glenn; ISBN 1-55958-311-8; pages 29-40/95-107.

The concept proposed in this reading is the use of regularly held class meetings in which students take responsibility for finding solutions to problems encountered in the classroom.

There were quite a few negative opinions about this technique in our class. However, I have a more positive viewpoint about it. The potential downfall I can see regarding the use of this strategy is that it must be well thought-out and implemented with consistency. It must also be a strategy that feels natural for a teacher. I would imagine that if a teacher did not feel a natural buy-in for this type of group discussion, it would likely disintegrate into one of those things "we tried for a while."

One reason that I may have a more favorable opinion of this technique is that it probably lends itself more easily to a theatre class than to other types of subjects. The expectations in a math class are not generally as social in nature. However, this seems like a perfect fit for a social studies class which deals with governments, the rights and responsibilities of citizens, and related topics. In theatre classes, it is especially critical to develop a level of trust, cooperation, and openness.

I think that if this program were integrated into a thoroughly developed curriculum outline from the beginning of the school year, it would have a good chance of yielding positive results. of course, it is one more thing that a teacher would have to study, thoroughly learn, then implement. Just thinking about one more thing can justify a lot of negative comments.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Raw Materials for the Mind, pages 142-180

This is a reflection on a reading from Raw Materials for the Mind: A Teachers Guide to Digital Literacy, by David Warlick.

This section of the book covers three topics:
  1. A strategy for conducting internet searches
  2. How to process information that is found
  3. How to extract information from web pages

The first topic is contained in the acronym, SEARCH:

  • S - Start with a small index search tool such as Yahoo
  • E - Edit your search phrase using Boolean or Search Math
  • A - Advance to a large index search tool such as Google or Alta Vista
  • R - Refine your search phrase using Boolean or Search Math
  • C - Cycle back and "advance" again
  • H - Harvest your selected web resources

The author does a nice job explaining this process, which really does help in navigating the huge maze that is the internet.

The second section deals with how to evaluate information found on the net and how to create authentic assignments using the net.

The third section deals with various ways to access information that has been found on a website. I haven't tried out these techniques. They seem a bit complicated just reading through the techniques. However, I hope that by following the author's step-by-step instructions I will be able to take information from one medium to another one that is usable for me.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Raw Materials for the Mind, pages 108-142

This is a reading from Raw Materials for the Mind, by David Warlick.

This section describes methods for searching the internet. It defines and describes bookmarks, web directories, search engines, syndication subscription, social software, and netsmarts.

All of these terms describe tools available to conducting internet searches, except for the last one - "netsmarts." Netsmarts is simply being savvy about how to conduct effective searches on the internet.

I had never really considered methodology in how to conduct web searches. Hit or miss/hope for the best describes my (lack of) method in trying to access information. These tools really do help by giving a map to follow; something I have definitely needed.

One of the tools is the PiNet Library designed specifically for teachers to make a useful bookmark device available from any computer with internet access. I went to this site (http://pinetlibrary.com/index.php) and made my own "library." This is a very useful tool which I have already been using.