Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The 21st Century Citizen

What is the purpose of education? Some people believe that it is to develop good citizens. Good citizens have the skills necessary to be productive members of society. So what are these skills? How does a person develop these skills? In an attempt to find the answers to these questions, I took a different approach. Would this be the same approach that a 21st century citizen would take? I started my search, but instead of just searching in Google I searched for blogs on this topic. I found a blog called 21st Century Citizen: Exploring the New Values of the 21st Century Citizen. I thought this would be a good place to start. Three Projects — AND Three Values on this blog states that anyone can do anything if they put their mind to it and that the values of society have to change. A good 21st Century Citizen should have values, know what is important to society, and want to contribute to the good of society.

As I read through the blogs, I looked at comments that people made. This lead me to other blogs and other articles on the same or similar topics. While visiting David Warlick's blog,
Christian commented that students need "programs that foster an ability to see patterns when things seemingly do not connect. Knowing where to find resources to help one makes sense of patterns forming…and knowing how to make ‘tangible’ what needs to come next." I believe that this is exactly what 21st Century citizens need to do. What role do we, as educators, take in helping to develop these types of skills in our students and make them good citizens?

So I continued to follow the links that presented themselves in the blogs that I visited and the comments they contained. This was a somewhat refreshing approach. I came across many different resources including podcast and videos. This was leading me in an interesting direction. I was mesmerized as I followed this path. I noticed that this was all one big conversation, a type of collaborative project. This is something that the 21st Century Citizen needs to know and be able to do. Is this what they mean by a social network?

Hey wait a minute am I being influenced here or am I really getting some concrete facts. Yes this information was mostly based on opinion, but how can you base the future on facts, especially when the future will look totally different. Then I came across a blog post,
Should an 18 Year Old Really Know What They’re Going to Do For the Rest of Their Life? How can anyone know what they're going to do the rest of their life when the world is changing so fast? We must "design 'schools as center of community', partnerships, new ideas re: learning styles & brain science, 'green' design, 'flex-spaces', emerging technologies, customizing learning opportunities for tomorrow's 'digital natives', etc." ( As our students graduate and become citizens, their paths will be uncertain. But if they develop skills and values, our students will be good citizens and help to develop good society.

What do you think the future holds for the School 2.0, Student 2.0, Graduate 2.0? Is there any hope for a Society 2.0? What do you think?

Friday, April 18, 2008

IM in the Classroom

Instant Messaging allows for "instant" communications between people. Is this type of communication necessary or just a distraction for students? To answer this question we need to look at the benefits, the drawbacks, and possible uses of Instant Messaging (IM) in the classroom. Benefits of Instant Messaging include greater interactivity, engagement, and collaboration between students. IM allows for real-time communication. IM is rapidly growing as a primary communications technology among corporate, educational and home users according to the article Instant Messaging – Collaborative Tool or Educator’s nightmare. Robert Farmer writes; "A vital technology for this generation is instant messaging—or “IM,” for short. IM is thus an ideal technology for today’s students" (Instant Messaging: IM online! RU?). Students will be learning how to use the technology that is the primary communications technology among corporate, educational and home users.

Privacy and security concerns along with its potential as a time waster are seen as the biggest drawbacks of Instant Messaging (Instant Messaging – Collaborative Tool or Educator’s nightmare!). Students will be able to chat with strangers and others outside the classroom, receive pornography and computer viruses can be transmitted through IM. It is also impossible for anyone to monitor all the IM at one time. Despite these drawbacks Instant Messaging can be very valuable in the classroom.

You can bring real-world experts in the classroom via instant messaging. You can also communicate and send files to groups of students instantly. Students will be able to get the answers to questions and collaborate in real-time. This allow the students to remain connected something students think is essential (Instant Messaging – Collaborative Tool or Educator’s nightmare!). Instant Messaging is also a critical tool for multi-tasking which has become a way of life. Certainly IM is a valuable tool that has many uses in the classroom. But will IM be used correctly by all students? Will IM be abused? Can the safety of the students be assured?

Perhaps IM that can be regulated and restricted can help to assure the students safety. There are many Instant Messengers that can be used on the local area network (LAN). LAN instant messing networks create provides security. This allows most of the benefits of IM with little of the risks. Bonjour is a LAN IM for Macintosh that is now available for Windows. Instant Messaging just like any other tool should be used appropriately and students should be educated on the use of the tool. Regulations and Netiquette should be established when using IM. It is important that the Teacher have training and experience in using IM or any other tool they allow their students to use. Instant Messaging used properly is a very powerful tool.

Students in my classes use Bonjour for collaboration. I also use Google Talk with some of my presentations. Students ask questions, make comments and watch the presentation. This gets the students involved and keeps them engaged. I believe this is a good experience for the students. I used IM when I was absent for several days. The students were very responsive. I was able to answer questions about assignments. But the best part of this experience was just talking to the students, it was a very positive experience. I have used IM to collaborate with teachers. Sending files for printing, images for assignments and communicating about projects are a few of the uses for IM with other teachers. This could also be a way to contact the office. I have also used IM with Dell to troubleshoot computer problems.

Based on your experience with Instant Messaging is IM the tool for you and your students? What do you think?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Social Networks in Education?

Social networking sites are become increasingly popular. Teens are increasingly becoming involved in these social networks. Should these networks be allowed in the classroom? Maybe more importantly are these socials networks an appropriate teaching tool? MySpace is a site that is known by virtually all teenagers, regardless of whether or not they participate. According to the article Identity Production in a Networked Culture: Why Youth Heart MySpace "Over 50 million accounts have been created and the majority of participants are what would be labeled youth - ages 14-24." To them the benefits outweigh the risks. The majority of adults and teens do not interact. Just look at the numbers teens are on these sites? Why not take the opportunity and use social networking sites? But can and will teens learn on these sites?

It is through these social networking communities that teens create an identity. This might be considered an introduction to marketing themselves as written in the article
Thoughts on Facebooks. Teens are given freedoms but are expected to take on responsibilities. As a general rule they don't say anything about someone else that they would not want said about themselves. The majority of teens are learning and practicing social responsibility. It is important that teens learn how interact on these networks. Students learn critical thinking skills and how to work collaboratively on these sites. But students think they are invincible. (Thoughts on Facebooks) It only takes one instance of poor judgment can ruin a students chances of getting into a college or getting a job.

The article Safe" Social Networking Sites Emerge describes Whyville, a social network for teens. This site seeks to teach educate its users about online safety. Members must pass a test and get parental approval before participating in this network. This is a good example of what can be done in the schools. But can an educational social network compete with the likes of MySpace or Facebook? In the article MySpace in College Admission Judy Oberlander said;“I’ve been on MySpace and I can see that for kids it’s like their hangout place, their place to vent, their place to maintain instant contact—it’s hard for them to give it up.” Students spend so much time on these social networking sites that it interferes with school work. Can we as educators use social networking sites to encourage academic achievement?

Instead of looking for the positive benefits of social networks school just ban them. "Social networking sites, positively used, offer young people a simple means of publishing their work and engaging in online discussion and debate" according to the article
Missed Opportunity. In this same article "Social networking can be a godsend to the child who does not shine in the classroom, finding face-to-face communication daunting," says Sally-Ann Griffiths, education adviser for Securus, a company specialising in providing IT risk-management "solutions". Social evident for students that have had difficulty in the traditional classroom setting. Students have always learned when they socialized as illustrated in the comic strip Frazz.

Today's Comic
What do you think? Can students learn from social networking sites?

Wikipedia? Great resource? Waste of Time?

Wikipedia in the classroom? This is an interesting question. Okay, maybe the question isn't that interesting, but the answer is interesting and certainly controversial. Wikipedia is an open source community. "The promise of open source is better quality, higher reliability, more flexibility, lower cost, and an end to predatory vendor lock-in" as stated in Open Source Initiative. This means everyone and anyone can add to or edit the content. This is both good and bad. The good part is that everyone can contribute information. This is also the bad part. Critisism of Wikipedia from Wikipedia says; "open nature makes it unauthoritative and unreliable." Some people think because some of the information is not accurate that students should not use this source. After all how will they know if it is reliable? Andy Carvin thinks that Wikipedia's flaws are what actually make it a god website for education. But isn't this the main concern about the Web as a whole? Many individuals may think all the information on Wikipedia and the Web is accurate and reliable. When in fact the information may be incorrect. Using Wikipedia this way is certainly not appropriate. Does that mean we should not use Wikipedia?

I think despite peoples ignorance and the fact that some information may not be reliable Wikipedia is still a great resource. Is any resource ever 100% reliable? Much of the information on Wikipedia is reliable and if it is isn't, it will soon be edited by the users. In the article
Growing Wikipedia Refines Its 'Anyone Can Edit' Policy states; "The bulk of the writing and editing on Wikipedia is done by a geographically diffuse group of 1,000 or so regulars, many of whom are administrators on the site." This means that students must be educated about open source and think critically when using Wikipedia. But, shouldn't students think critically when at the information on any site? They will have to look at the information and see if the author or authors have reliable sources to back up their information. This gives the students a real world way to decide if the information is accurate and correct. Students will be need to research to verify that the information they find is correct. Students can then edit and improve the quality of the information.

When other students are doing the same thing they are working together to assure that the information is better. Students are now working in a open source community. They are not just using the information. They are contributing to it. This is the real value of Open source information and Wikipedia. Students must learn how to think critically, find information and work together. Using Wikipedia can help the students develop these skills. They will also be able to add to and improve the information that is available. This makes the students responsible for the information and a part of Wikipedia.

What do you think? Is Wikipedia something you'd want your students using in the classroom?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The YouTube Delimma

YouTube is a video sharing website with an estimated 77.3 million videos. Many of the videos have educational value, so why is YouTube and others sites like it blocked in many schools? This is a complicated issue. Perhaps the reason the video sites are not allowed in schools the content of some of the videos. A recent video was posted showing six teen girls beating another teen girl. Don't blame YouTube, MySpace for teen beating video discusses this video. Do videos like this promote violence or can this video be used as a teaching tool? In the article YouTube course is a class act, Stuart King says: "After all, one of the jobs of a teacher is to help kids make sense of the world they live in."

Should we let a few bad videos deprive educators of such a great resource. Using videos in the classroom can lead to students creating their own videos. Research, understanding and narrative skills are developed when making videos. Tapping into the Wild Wild Web: Lights, Camera. Learning discusses these skills. There are many videos on YouTube that have educational value. Video tutorials and videos about history, science, math just to name a few are found on YouTube. There are videos on almost any topic imaginable. This makes YouTube a very valuable and must have resource for the educator.

With all this to offer you would think that YouTube would not only be allowed, but promoted by those in charge. YouTube prohibits
uploading of videos containing pornography, nudity, defamation, harassment, commercial advertisements and material encouraging criminal conduct. However is difficult to enforce. Just the chance of innappropriate material has caused video sites to be blocked. An alternative to YouTube in the classroom is TeacherTube which is for teachers and by teachers. I have found this site to contain most of the educational benifits with less risk.

What do you think? Are the rewards worth the risk?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

2-6: First Blog Entry

Blogs are great for instruction. I use blogging in my instruction. I have been using blogs for several years now. First I started using a blogging to post material for the students, instruction for assignments, and examples of projects. Then I started using a blog to give the students the objective. Then I added a question to my blog as a do now for the students. So I had the students create their own blog . This worked out really well for my students. Now when the students come into class they go straight to the Question of the Day and answer it on their blog. This allows me time to take attendance and give the students some verbal instructions. Now I also post photographs of outstanding students, some student work and homework. The use of blogs has been a great benefit to my students. Now I am giving workshops for teachers I have created a blog to use for the teacher workshops. In the next workshop the teachers will be creating their own blog.

The beginning of this school year I had my students make a blog with blogger. Then one day in October we could no longer get onto blogger. So I went to the Tech Coordinator to fix the problem. I sent an email to the Technician at the board. After about a week with no response I sent another Email. Finally a response came. The technician instructed me to send emails only to my supervisor and he had to send it to him. My supervisor was the one who instructed me to email the technician, because I could communicate the problem better. Anyway emails went out for months with no action taken. Until one day I was told they could not let us use blogger without compromising the whole filtering sytem. I had little faith that blogger would ever be fixed. In the mean time I searched and tried many different blog sites. Non could compare to blogger. I did use, but I did not like this ite too much. Finally, the head of technology came to see me for a favor. I described my delima to him. He agreed that blogger was the way to go. The next day it was fixed. So now I have moved my class blogs to blogger. I believe in what I am doing with blogger and blogs. The benifit of blogging for my students makes it all worth while.