Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Is Technology Really Making us Antisocial?

I saw this tweet from History In Pictures yesterday, and it made me laugh:

What do you think? Is it really all that different than this one?

Image by Susan Sermoneta [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

I'm not saying there isn't a time to put the devices away...that would be like saying there was never a time to put the newspapers down, which is obviously ridiculous.

But I think we are quick to demonize the influence of digital technologies, and somehow think more idyllic thoughts of yesteryear without them.

Yes, we (I) need to be mindful of being "present" and putting the phone down. But is technology really making us antisocial? Or is it just more socially-acceptable to be "antisocial" today because we carry phones (which are really pocket-sized computers!) everywhere we go?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Keep those Plates Spinning

This week is shaping up to be a crazy week for me. Last week sort of was too. I simply have a lot going on right now. In fact, I sort of feel like this guy:

Sure would be nice if he had a friend to help him keep those plates spinning, wouldn't it?

Teacher, if you are feeling overwhelmed today, be sure to take time to connect with a friend. Have a cup of coffee with a colleague. Take 10 minutes to walk a lap around the school. Yes, in the meantime a few of your plates might start to wobble, but you can't do this on your own. This job is bigger than you. It's daunting to try to meet the needs of those 20 (30? 120?) kids that come through your classroom every day. It can be overwhelming to deal with the papers, the planning. There is always more you could do; there is always one more plate someone would like to see you spinning.

That's why it's so important to make time to connect with others. Knowing that colleagues have gone through (or are going through) what you're going through can be so helpful! Not in a "misery loves company" sort of way, but more of a "here's what I did and here's what I learned."

Teaching, like plate spinning, is the sort of vocation that gets better with practice. Don't be afraid to accept a little help, coaching, and support!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Digital Citizenship and Netiquette

Hey, it's Digital Citizenship Week! (Yeah, I didn't know that either, but Twitter told me. I checked...it is!)

As an EdTech fanatic, this is something near and dear to my heart. Schools have always had a role in socialization and teaching citizenship. In the 21st Century, that definitely has to include teaching students how to be good citizens in online interactions as well--because online life is "real life" for our students today...nothing "virtual" about it. (And honestly, online life is "real life" for all of us who use the internet for any part of our personal or professional life.)

I love CommonSense Media; I used their materials quite a bit for teaching digital citizenship when I was Technology Coordinator at a K-8 school. They have great stuff for parents and teachers and a lot of it is designed for use directly with the kiddos. I recommend you check out their ideas and resources for Digital Citizenship Week.

I also came across this great infographic this morning for helping to teach netiquette. What do you think? Does this seem like it covers everything?

Graphic shared by Educational Technology and Mobile Learning.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

We can't just hand them computers...they might learn something!

I confess it...I went through a kick sometime in the past year or so where I made a bunch of snarky graphics at someecards. In the batch someplace was this one:

I had used it to illustrate my point for a blog post about the way so many 1:1 programs are structured--very similar to what Cuban (2013) argues--as if the use of educational technology is some kind of magic bullet that will suddenly cause amazing learning to happen.
Actually, as I reflect on this, I think the silly graphic here isn't telling the truth. I think we can expect that kids will learn things if we hand them a laptop connected to the Internet. The problem is, in formal educational settings, we generally want to control just what it is that they learn, and ensure that it is focused on some broader educational goals or standards or scope & sequence of prescribed learning outcomes.
And this seems to be just the opposite of what Mitra is arguing for. Mitra et al. (2005) emphasize this in their very hypothesis: "if given appropriate access and connectivity, groups of children can learn to operate and use computers with none or minimal intervention from adults" (p. 2). For me, the question remains "Is this good enough?"

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Is Online Learning the Same as Face-to-Face Learning?

Image by photosteve101 [CC BY 2.0]
I have been talking quite a lot lately with colleagues about online learning, and the benefits and challenges of teaching courses online. It seems that the question inevitably comes up whether online courses are "the same" as face-to-face courses. I find that such an interesting question! I think for my colleagues who have never taken an online course, it may be hard for them to imagine what the learning is like, because if the course is offered in a format they have not personally experienced in their formal education, they might be suspicious of its value. I wonder if there is a fear of the unknown that causes some to mistrust online learning in general?

The thing is, not all online courses are created equal. (But then again, not all face-to-face courses are created equal either.) I am convinced that there are ways we can structure online courses to make them robust, engaging, productive learning experiences for our students.

I have been facilitating a blended-format workshop (part of our work is online, part of it is face-to-face) for groups of my colleagues who want to learn more about teaching online or blended courses. I've really enjoyed this, and it's definitely a research interest for me: I have taught online, and I want to continue to get better at it. And, as I learn more and gain expertise in this area, I want to share the things I'm learning about pedagogy in the online classroom with others!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Moving Middle School from the Back Burner

Now that I teach in higher education I have joked to colleagues that I might look like a professor, but I'm still a middle school teacher on the inside. I taught in middle schools for the first 14 years of my teaching practice, and while I love what I do now (teaching future teachers), I do miss working with young adolescents on a daily basis.

That might sound crazy to you, if you aren't a middle school teacher yourself. Actually, it might sound crazy to you even if you are a middle school teacher. Teaching young adolescents is not for the faint of heart--and it isn't for everyone! But for those of us called to teach middle schoolers...wow. It's amazing!

The other day in my Introduction to Education class, I asked my students to participate in a poll as a hook to bring them in to the topic of the day (student development.) I asked them, "Which is the most difficult age group to teach?" Of the 30 students who participated in the poll...15 answered "Middle School."

Here it is--the actual poll results.

Clearly, teaching in the middle school is not for everyone!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Rough Day? Permission to Play

Teacher, do you ever have those days where everything feels overwhelming?

Students are challenging.

Colleagues are not being very collegial.

Administrators have unrealistic expectations.

Lessons fall flat.

The paperwork seems unending.

Technology didn't work out the way you had planned.

The sum total is a rough, rough day.

I'm sure you never have days like this...

Okay, you probably do. At least, I know I do.

And on those kinds of days, do you feel like knocking down a wall?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Perspective Matters

Last week, I was at the Mall of America with my family. We didn't really buy anything, but we had fun exploring. We spent a fair bit of time at the Lego store. My kids love Legos. To be fair...I love Legos too.

While we were there, I noticed this Lego mosaic on the wall...

Nice pattern, but can you discern the whole picture from this close-up view? Let's step back a bit...