One of my assignments this unit is to give a brief overview of several education wikis. The first wiki I looked at is Collaboration Nation. Collaboration Nation is the classroom wiki for a 19th Century History class in the eighth grade. This wiki is particularly interesting to me as the instructor offers to collaborate with willing classrooms. Features of this wiki include video discussions, podcasts, technology help, and research links. This type of wiki supports both student and teacher learning. Students learn the technological, research, and content skills to maintain the wiki while the educator networks and grows in their profession by collaborating with new colleagues and keeping up to date with new technology.
A second wiki I investigated is DelMar History 8. Like the first wiki, this is a classroom wiki for a middle school history class. The strength of this wiki is that it has every resource that a student could need in one place. There is a separate section of this wiki dedicated to improving written assignments. This wiki also has links to various classroom resources and forms, including a homework excuse form. The primary purpose of this wiki is to support student learning. I do wish there was a little more student activity, so I could gauge if this wiki is meant as a tool to aid independent student learning or if it is meant to supplement a more instructor-driven model.
Next, I decided to vary my selection of wikis by reviewing The Aristotle Experiment. This wiki is for an entire high school and does not focus on only one classroom. The purpose of this wiki is to help the school’s students gain the technological skills needed to succeed. The class pages contain resources to help students do well in class such as course calendars, reading lists, etc… The really interesting portion of this wiki falls under the student projects section which includes extensive multimedia projects, writing prompts, and a school blog. This wiki has great potential as a hub for this high school. To really effectively support learning, the section for the classes needs to be divided by more than grade and needs to be more than resource lists. Get the students involved!
The last wiki I checked out is entitled 105. 105 is the classroom wiki for a secondary level Government class. What struck me about this wiki is it’s similar strengths and flaws to the previous wiki. Most of the wiki is devoted to listing class resources. To the wiki’s credit it does have the advantage of having an online textbook and separate links to individual student pages. Again, the real strength of this wiki is in the student driven content. The student pages are full of self-made videos, slideshows, and no longer existing GoogleDocs. The only way that the student pages could be better is with the addition of written responses and some sort of framing or explanation of the projects.
DelMar History 8
The Aristotle Experiment
For this unit I have created a voicethread on social and collaborative media. Voice thread is a tool that allows users to add narration to images or video. Other users can go through threads and leave text, audio, or video comments. Also, other users can doodle on the slides when commenting.
I have recently crated a small bookshelf on GoodReads of additional resources I can use when preparing a unit on the American Revolution. For this bookshelf, I chose to group books that I would use while preparing a lesson However, this is not the only way to use GoodReads. This website is also useful in finding out what students enjoy reading and in recommending suitable fiction and non-fiction for each unit. Also, I would personally encourage students to post reviews on books they have read (historically based) and discuss how effective and accurate they found the books. This can help teach students to be thoughtful and reflective thinkers and readers.
iGoogle is a great tool for helping me keep organized. I am very fond of the Google Docs gadget as it allows the user to see their own documents and documents they have recently opened. The Twitter gadget is also useful as I no longer have to check the Twitter site to get updates. I also kept the CNN and Youtube gadgets on my homepage so I can stay informed with extra effort. iGoogle will help my professional development by making my time spent on-line more efficient. Many of the tools I use on-line are now in one place which is relatively distraction-free.
During Module 2 in class I had to create a digital work using Bubblr. Bubblr is a tool that allows users to create comic strips using images from Flickr. I create a comic strip that is meant to be an introduction to an end of unit assessment. The comic shows examples of social consequences of the American Civil War and concludes by asking students to consider the political and economic effects. I consider this strip a warm-up to at least two days of research on the part of the students. The comic strip is intended for middle school students and directly aligns with NCSS U. S. History Standard 2B, which is also aligned with Maryland social studies standards.
Wikipedia: A comic strip is a sequence of drawings arranged in interrelated panels to display brief humor or form a narrative, often serialized, with text in balloons and captions. →
Virtual tours as conducted through Flickr seem to me to be the best and most complete use of Flickr’s educational potential. The photographs in my slide show directly connect to Standard 2A of the National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies, under the content heading of United States History. As the photographs provide a digital tour of a museum focused on Gettysburg, the photos literal aid students in “identifying the turning points of the war and evaluate how political, military, and diplomatic leadership affected the outcome of the conflict.” This slide show also focuses on a direct outcome of the war that students might find particularly fascinating – the fates of orphans of Union soldiers. (The building that the photos were taken in is part of the original War Orphans home set up after the Civil War.) I believe that this slide show, with a narrative voice over, would make an excellent digital tour of an interesting museum that is often overlooked in physical tours of Gettysburg.
As I put together a gallery for the Module 2 Flickr assignment, I decided to focus on the American Civil War as my main topic. This gallery includes images of important people during the Civil War, an example of an ordinary soldier from both sides of the conflict, several scenes from during the war, and three photographs of the aftermath of the war. I envision this gallery would be useful as an alternative to PowerPoint. I also intend for these photographs to be utilized with a lecture or worksheet activity. I do not believe that a gallery like this is effective solely by itself; however, during this Module I have found a use for Flickr that does stand almost entirely on its own.
For my second post I chose to review several library/librarian blogs. The first library blog I looked at is Adult Books 4Teens. I was surprised at first that this was considered a blog as it is not stand alone but is part of the School Library Journal website. However this blog is on the course listing of blogs and the format of the posts is the format of blog posts, so I believe that is blog is relevant.
The purpose of this blog is to provide educators with publishing information and reviews of books that are suitable for high school students, and yet are not marketed or intended for a solely young adult audience. To achieve this purpose, the posts all contain an image of the work, bibliographical information, details about the author, a guest review of the work, and a genre tag. The review of Bridge of Scarlet Leaves is a typical example of this kind of post. I really enjoyed this type of post as it is extremely effective in achieving the purpose behind this blog. Posts like the example linked create a database of educator driven reviews that is a valuable resource to teachers.
The second most common type of post in this blog is very similar to the first kind of post. While the second kind of posts keep all the structural features of the regular book reviews, these new posts have the distinction of being focused on graphic novels. As such, the reviews of graphic novels have the additional review of artistic style, as can be seen in the second post I focused on, entitled A Belgian Heritage. The most striking thing about these types of posts is that they apparently occur on a weekly basis! I find it very gratifying to read so many reviews of sophisticated graphic works that can be used with older students. It’s been my personal experience that graphic works tend to catch the attention of most students, whether they enjoy reading or see the task as a chore.
Additionally, this blog has several “special” posts that vary according to the topic. One post, an interview with Anne Rice, is a good example of a non-typical post for this blog. The post starts with a brief introduction and goes start into the interview. After the interview, the post also has the traditional book review information as well as information about a book giveaway contest. The interview itself is interesting as the questions lead to a thoughtful examination of popular culture, the writing process, and the author’s personal motivations in how and what she creates.
I am extremely impressed with this blog. It provides educators with information about books that could enhance and provide depth to classroom discussions and provide a starting point for connecting concepts and in depth learning. Plus, I personally want to keep up with the interests of my students and provide compelling, sophisticated, and age appropriate reading material for study halls and other “free” time.
Bridge of Scarlet Leaves
Interview with Anne Rice
The second library blog I looked at in depth is TLC = Tech + Library + Classroom. This blog is set up by a librarian in Thailand who works at an International School. The purpose of this blog is to promote connections between the school library and classrooms with a heavy emphasis on technology. The posts in this blog are easy to read and not overly lengthy. Each post has at least one visual component and many posts contain hyperlinks. In general, this blog is free from distractions and is simple to navigate. As a result, this blog would be ideal to promote to parents.
The topics of the posts vary as, along with the blog’s general purpose, the posts are constructed around current happenings at the school. In order to keep the blog organized, posts are grouped by topic labels which are posted on the right side of the blog. Of course, posts can also be read in numerical order.
One of the most interesting posts in this blog has to do with using Skype in the classroom. Basically, the students are in groups that have focused on a particular author for their unit. The students come up with a persuasive letter (with helping) asking their author for a Skype interview. As the post shows, some of these requests are being positively answered! I assume that the students will come up with appropriate questions for the interview. I found this so interesting because it had not occurred to me to utilize Skype in this manner. Perhaps in my own classroom we could have guest lectures or interviews without distance being an issue. Perhaps an AP high school class could have a “sample” college lecture. Also, students could interview people with different life experiences for sociology and anthropology. Government classes could speak with politicians. This is rather a paradigm shift for me, and a welcome one at that!
Great Reads! is one example of a theme of posts that I find useful on this blog. This blog includes many posts on blogging and many posts sharing interesting websites that the blog author has run across. This particular post displays both of these characteristics. The blogger is promoting a separate blog she also authors that recommends books for students and is meant to be accessed primarily by parents and guardians. I have included this post because it is an excellent example of what I feel a library blog should be striving for within an educational community. This library truly is a “hub” because it brings together teacher expectations, student interest, and parental involvement all to one central location. So, while I have determined to model this blog on the educator blogs I have covered in my previous post, I should also strongly consider being an active voice in the library blog of whatever school I end up at. I can certainly see the benefits for all involved.
The third blog post I focused on surprised me in that I did not expect a library blog to provide me with professional networking resources. Another Means of Connecting is a post that introduced me to Classroom 2.0. This website connects instructors from around the world and provides feedback and support on a variety of topics. I was most impressed with the technological assistance, as I found it very down to earth and comprehensible.
Overall, this blog is the pinnacle of connecting people and spreading ideas within the educational community on a global level. As a new blogger I should strive to be a member in this community and I find that this blog models effective participation in a way that is not overwhelming.
Another Means of Connecting
The third library/librarian blog I perused is Adventures of Library Girl by Jennifer LaGarde. The audience of the blog appears to be geared more towards librarians in particular rather than educators as a whole. Despite this, the scope of the blog is broad enough to be useful to a classroom instructor. Many posts on this blog are text-heavy (not a negative) but additionally a good portion of the blog is taken up by presentations. These presentations are a problem for me as when I went to open one of them, Firefox became unresponsive. This also happened on two additional presentations.
I still chose to review this blog because it had some very fascinating posts. My favorite post is Wii Wednesday, which describes how the blogger’s library uses play time on a Wii system as a reward for completing extra math problems. While this by itself is noteworthy, the blogger also mentioned that math teachers at her school wanted to sign up to use the Wii during actual class time with special activities. I wonder how adaptable the technology would be for Social Studies. Perhaps the Wii could be utilized in a library resources lesson.
I am thrilled by another post, Library Virtual Tour, precisely because I realized what the application of such technology would be in my own classroom. The post itself is mostly a video showing off the many features of the library. If I were to use the same technology, I could show students places they have never been. Obviously this would be prohibited in certain places, like many museums, but battlefields, reenactments, archeological digs, and simply tours of foreign cities would be amazing resources.
I also read the post What Do You Stand For? The main premise of this post is that it is positive for students, the school environment, and one’s professional self to publicly demonstrate what that person believes about their career. The blogger advocates showing peers and administration what your beliefs are through actions as well as words. She also ties this theme into having a visible identity, which is something I am working on right now by taking an active role in shaping my digital footprint. I interpret the post to be promoting professionalism and academic rigor as personal identity traits. Given some of the practicum situations I’ve been in, this is a very refreshing sentiment.
Overall, the library/librarian blogs I have reviewed have reminded of experience and support I will have access to outside of my classroom. The blogs also demonstrate creative uses for technology that simply had not occurred to me. Far from being confined to the printed word, the blogs I’ve looked at have challenged my perceptions of the processes and boundaries of learning.
Library Virtual Tour
What Do You Stand For?
As part of a blogging assignment I am to look through several educators’ blogs and comment on what I observe. As my field is Secondary Social Studies, the first blog I looked at was The History 2.0 Classroom by Greg Kulowiec. The first feature of this blog that struck me was the extreme variety of technology Mr. Kulowiec highlights. For example, the most current post deals with the educational possibilities presented only by iPads. By contrast, a previous post details a no-technology simulation of the Industrial Revolution using the game Rock, Paper, Scissors. The second attribute that I noticed is the variety and accessibility of the posts. While most of the posts I looked at were traditional texts posts, Mr. Kulowiec also makes use of other formats, such as video posts. I found this particularly helpful in his Choose Your Own Adventure Tutorial.
The general purpose of the blog appears to be introducing and sharing new technology and classroom ideas with peers. From the comments, I see that a lot of people are adapting Mr. Kulowiec’s ideas for their own use. From the blogger’s perspective, I suppose it would be useful to have a log of projects you have done in your classrooms. Additionally, this blog could also be used as a backup of materials and most certainly provides the blogger with peer feedback. From a reader’s point of view, it is extremely helpful to have someone model uses of new technology. I found this blog particularly inspiring and adaptable.
Marx Rock, Paper, Scissors
Choose Your Own Adventure Tutorial
The second teacher’s blog I looked at is Scenes from the Battleground. I was interested in this blog because the purpose of the blog is to report and discuss topics and trends in British Education. I thought that looking at a foreign source for similarities and differences would force me to consider the nuances and subtleties of the educational system of the United States.
From what I’ve seen of this blog, many of the posts are strictly textual in format. Many of the posts are formatted as editorials or are otherwise informal. The blog certainly gives the appearance that it is meant to be approached by peers within the educational community.
One feature of this blog that I greatly appreciate is the guide to blog posts by category that is apparently updated each new year. I plan to do this with my own blog in addition to the calendar of posts. Also, this post was useful in gauging the scope of this blog. The topics that are covered in this blog range from humorous posts to behavioral issues.
A post I found fascinating is a reworked entry about the supposed habit of high school boys to obsess about the sexual orientation of their male high school teachers. Frankly, this is an issue I have never considered, but I was intrigued by the blogger’s position that the educator should be open about the issue. From my perspective, I don’t see how the subject should come up at all. This led me to reflect on what I perceive the most correct and least disruptive response would be. Look for my decision in a future post!
Another post I’ve read closely is a detailed response to a post about education on a separate blog, Liberal Conspiracy. The original post argues for the inclusion of student opinions in what they are taught and how they are taught. The post sets up students as “consumers” in the educational system. What remains murky to me in the original post is the role of the instructor. The rebuttal post I focused on reframes the issue in terms of the professionalism, knowledge, and experience that instructors are to have. The argument at Scenes from the Battleground is that students are not experienced enough to know what they need to know and how they best learn. Overall, the find the rebuttal post more compelling, but I enjoyed reading both sides of the debate.
A Guide to Scenes from the Battlefield
How to tell if your Teacher is Gay
Why Students Aren’t Given More of a Say in Education
Original Liberal Conspiracy post
The third Educator Blog that I focused my attention on is Stump the Teacher by Josh Stumpenhorst. This blog caught my interest as the blogger is in fields and a school setting that I am interested in. Additionally, I wanted to take a closer look at the format of this blog. The blog reads as a personal log of experiences as a professional within the classroom as well as in other settings and it reads as a log of thoughts on current educational topics. Basically, this blog is a catch-all education blog from the perspective of a single teacher.
The reality of this purpose is reflected in the format of the posts. Some are textual only, some include text and pictures, and some posts are in video format. Most topics are related back to their impact on the blogger himself. In this way, the overriding theme of this blog is of reflection.
I was drawn to one post right from the beginning. A fairly recent post from the author lambasts the practicing and harboring of mediocrity in the teaching profession. He does define several factors and agencies behind the drive. However, he offers no solutions. A second post, which is about the Common Core, has similar issues. The post does not go into actual details about current or future standards and is thus not very helpful to beginning teachers. The third post that struck me is based on the supposition that male students are being dealt a worse hand in education than girls. This argument by the blogger is based on; frankly, sexist notions that “boys are rambunctious” and activeness and loudness are “boy-like qualities.” From these three posts I believe I have found a flaw with the purely reflection based blog. The posts are only useful and truly relevant to the individual who wrote them. The posts are not challenging or boundary-pushing for readers, so why read them?
From reading these various Educator Blogs I have learned how I want to set up something similar. While I feel most drawn to the reflection style of blog, I also find it to easy and not professionally challenging. I admire Scenes from the Battlefield in that the blog discusses the profession of teaching as a craft. I enjoy the discourse with peers and the laid-back attitude. I would like to someday have a blog with components similar to the History 2.0 classroom. I admire the professional know-how exhibited in that blog. Overall, I intend to create a blog that meshes features from all three blogs, perhaps separated by topic.
Concerns with Common Core
Schools Fail Boys