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Peace out PLN!

April 20, 2010

As the semester comes to an end so must our PLN projects.  Although rough and frustrating at times this project has really taught my classmates and myself a great deal.  I know I have learned so many new things through this project and have established so many more connections than I would have ever imagined.  I plan to use these connections and networks in the remainder of my college career and take them into my future job as a teacher.  I think we can all really benefit from this project and it will become a useful tool in our education careers.

In my final post for this project I would like to leave you all with a little bit of inspiration!

As our semester comes to an end and the work piles on remember why we are doing this!  Why we chose this major and why we will continue to work so hard for the rest of our lives.  We want to help our students learn and we want to make a difference in their lives or at least I know I do.  So when ever you are feeling like you’re in way over your head or you just cant take it any more remember you are appreciated and all the hard work you are doing will pay off.  You will change someone’s life one day and you will impact many!  Teachers accomplish amazing goals in their lives and we should be proud of that.  You all are amazing and you will make wonderful teachers LLED SPRING 2010 ❤

Issues with Technology!

April 19, 2010

Over the past few weeks two of my classmates Colin Hill and Eric Yingling have posted great blog’s involving teaching with technology that I found very interesting.  I am very glad they brought up this topic because it is something I had a lot of experience with in both my high school and the school I was student teaching at.  Through their blog’s both Colin and Eric raise the issue of students and school districts with lower socioeconomic status and the use of technology.  Growing up my school district was very diverse in the sense of income.  While there were plenty of student who had technology at their homes and constant access to it many students did not.  Those students would have to rely on the school computers or the local public library computers and technology for any projects or assignments we were given.  If we did not have class time to work on the computers in class or during the school day those kids would have to stay after or try to fit using the labs into their day some how.

I think incorporating technology into the classroom is an excellent idea, but we have to keep in mind that most school districts are not going to be able to provide their students with the technology we are using now at Penn State.  I think as teachers we have to realize that we aren’t always going to have the easiest time when working with students and schools with lower funding.  It will be hard and frustrating, especially after we’ve learning so much about technology in college and had access to the unlimited resources provided for us.  We also must make sure we do not single those students out that have lower-income families and situations.  It’s not their fault and we should not punish them for it.  We need to take this into consideration when giving out technology based assignments that would require out of class time.

As my classmates and myself have stated technology is a great tool and it can do wonders for the education field, but we have to realize the context we are in when we are trying to use it.  Not only will the school district and students not have access to the technology they will most likely not know how to use it or have little experience with it.  It is in the instances we have to be patient and work with what we have making sure we do not exclude anyone who might not have access.  That is part of being a teacher.  We have to deal with what we are given to work with (technology or no technology) and make the best of it.  It’s about making an impact in a student’s life and making sure they are learning positively from you.  We don’t necessarily need the “best new” technology ever to accomplish that goal!

Teaching to the TEST!

April 15, 2010

I am working on an inquiry project for one of my education classes about teaching to the test and the negativity surrounding this process. Last year I had the opportunity to pre-student teach in an 8th grade classroom. The school district I was placed in is located in rural central Pennsylvania. I was in the classroom for 6 weeks, on day a week. This was a great learning experience for me and I was lucky enough to get an amazing host teacher who really made me feel welcome. By the end of the 6 weeks she was allowing my to teach full class periods which really helpful to me. Because I was at the school from Feb.-Mar. the students were doing a lot of PSSA practice. The PSSA is the state of Pennsylvania’s standardized test. The students were taking the test at the end of March, so while I was there a portion of their classes was dedicated to test prep each day. On the first day of my teaching I learned that the English class I was placed in was one of two English classes the students had every day. The school had divided 8th grade English into two separate classes the first concentrating only on writing and grammar the second reading and language arts. I was really surprised by this. I have never seen this done before in schools. When I asked my teacher about it she said they did it to allow more test prep and practice. That was a big shocker to me. My teacher was responsible for the writing and grammar class so for a good amount of time the students were practicing the essay portion of the test. Two of the six days I was in the classroom the students were doing test practice and sample tests in both of their English class. I later learned that the school no longer had a culinary arts, metal shop, and other certain elective classes due in order to open more periods for student who needed more test practice. If a student did not receive proficient on the test they were but into an additional test prep class. Some students were sitting through three English classes two days a week. Can you imagine a 13 year old sitting through three English classes in one day?? Thats terrible. They had their gym, art, music, and other elective classes cut short or even taken for testing practice. I could not believe this! Shouldn’t we be encouraging our students to participate in the electives and extracurricular activities rather than take them away? Forcing them into multiple math and English classes is only pushing them away from the test and frying their brains. I know if I was a student in this situation I would go crazy with all the testing stuff being thrown at me. Two weeks leading up to the PSSA was all test practice in the English and math class. It was ridiculous how much time teachers were forced to spend on this. After having an already packed schedule and curriculum they are then forced to work this into their lessons. I have heard of schools adding more test practice and prep to their daily routines or punishing students with certain privileges if they did not score well enough, but this is by far the worst I have seen.

Teachers should not be forced to teach a test. It defeats the purpose of teaching. If we are only teaching about what’s going to be on a test what is that teaching the students? What are they getting from that? Great they will be able to pass a test…what next? I understand the purpose of standardized testing and evaluating students on the same level, but at this point in time it has gotten a little out of hand. I found two blog posts that talk about the topic of teaching to the test, as well as an article, and an EC NING discussion I started. All present interesting perspectives about teaching to the test and their opinions about fixing the methods schools have fallen into because of the tests! Below are the links…check them out they are really worth reading I promise!!

Article-Accountability, Yes. Teaching to the test, No.

BLOG 1- The Bi-College News Online-Teaching to the test!

BLOG 2- Teacher Blog Posts-Do’s & Don’ts for Teaching to the Test

ECNING- Teaching to the Test Discussion

Lesson Planning!

April 14, 2010

I’m sure your jumping up and down with excitement after reading the title of this post, because lesson plans are just every teachers favorite. =] Promise to keep it interesting!!

For my LLED 420 class I am working on writing a 3 week unit plan (15 days).  While working on my unit this week I’ve found myself worrying if my lessons are going to be good enough or if they are thoughtful enough.  I don’t want to end up planning 15 days of work and having half of them fail.  I guess this is why we are starting practice on this type of this so early so that we can see what works and what doesn’t but it still freaks me out a little-actually a lot!  I’m paranoid about 3 weeks of lessons, what’s going to happen when I have to plan a whole year!?  Crazy to think about!  So I started asking myself…are lesson plans really worth getting frustrated and nervous over?  Starting out as a new teacher I am sure I will need them for ever class all day long all year long as a guide to my teaching and helping me getting started, but once I’m into teacher for a few years will I really be worried about detailed lesson plans and structured classes?  As these questions came to my mind I started exploring different blogs on EC NING.  I found two very insightful blogs that helped relieve some of my stress.

The first post I found was from Hamilton Salsich’s blog and it was very helpful.  Unfortunately there are no comments or conversations off the initial post, but just the one post helped me answering my some of my questions.  He talks about students being like “cyclones” you never know how one class will work out and you have to expect anything to happen for the most part.  He states that he does have set lessons planned and goals to achieve for each day but once class starts it’s all up in the air in which direction the student take it.  I was relieved to hear this, and I think that I some what agree with him.  As a teacher anything can happen in a classroom and we have to be prepared to expect anything.  If something does not work out or go the way we wanted it to, we can’t just give up.  I think through reading this and other posts by teachers I have realized that it’s not worth getting upset over lessons that do not work out or go as planned as long as the students are learning something.  If they are getting something out of it and are gaining some kind of knowledge then some part of the meaning or purpose of the material is getting across to the students.

The second post I found from Alan Sitomer;s blog is all about making sure students enjoy learning what they are learning.  For these two blogs and my current knowledge about lesson plans and teaching students I think it is important for teachers to be open to change and new ideas.  Just because something doesn’t work out does not mean we are failures.  I recently have been learning new teaching techniques through my education block classes which have really opened my eyes to new ways of teaching I never even thought of.  My LLED 420 teacher, Jason Whitney, had my class act out two different situations to as example lessons while working with a novel.  I thought this was a great activity that many teachers don’t really experiment with.  I know in my high school acting was hardly ever used.  He also introduced our class to grammar/writing clinics.  A classmate of mine, Diane Mowery, recently blogged about such clinics.  They incorporate many aspects of the English classroom into on lesson.  We all really liked the idea!

Overall I think my stress about lesson planning is slowing calming down…for now that is.  Once I start planning lesson after lesson day after day I might be freaking out again, but as for now I think I am on track with my unit plan and the activities I want to do with the novel I have chosen to use with my unit.  That’s all for now..if you have any interesting lesson planning tips or activities they are greatly appreciated!

Reading in Secondary Education

April 13, 2010

Last week my class had the opportunity to explore Penn State’s education library with the assistance of one of the librarians who works there. She showed us many interesting resources the library provides for education majors specifically, which many of us knew nothing about. Through her presentation she discussed adolescent literature and went over a great deal of books students in the secondary level could be reading or that we should look at. As she was showing us the books I came to realize there were many I have not heard of. After class I over heard some of my classmates talking, and they too seemed to fall in the same category. None of us really realized how many books we have not read or heard of.

As I thought about this I began to think about books I had to read in high school. Every year the same thing was read over and over again in the different grades. Everyone knew that you read The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible in eleventh grade, 1984 and Hamlet senior year, and then tackled the accelerated reader program sophomore year.  Not to mention summer reading projects every summer that no one ever liked or cared for.  I started to realize that all through my high school career there were very few books I enjoyed reading and found interest in.  With a few minor exceptions we were never able to choose our own books to read.

I would like to spend some time now talking about summer reading.  Many schools use some sort of summer reading program to encourage their students to continue to read through the time school is not in secession.  I found a great deal of conversations on E.C.NING that talk the different pro’s and con’s about summer reading programs.  Many seem to say that overall students struggle with summer reading and get by with doing as little as possible or not reading at all.  From this teachers struggle with grading the projects, and find it a waste of time on their part if they are preparing all this work for students not to participate or complete the assigned materials.  I found through these discussions that many schools started allowing students to choose one book on their own as well as one book from the school’s required reading list.  This seemed to be the most successful process in the teachers opinions.  When students were forced to read only from the required list teachers found it a lot harder to get students to complete the assignment, but by adapting the new program of allowing students to pick their book, the reading interest has greatly increased.  When I was in high school we were required to read only from the reading list and the books were not very interesting at all.  A report on two book was due at the beginning of the school year for a grade in English class.  One year my teacher just gave extra credit to the students who did the reports and another year a teacher gave us a two-week extension to work on the reports.  Both instances never really worked out because we weren’t reading in the summer and we knew we could get away with it.  Recently the school has switched over to allowing students to pick their own book as well as requiring a book from their reading list and implementing a mandatory grade by teachers one week after school has started in the fall.  The program seems to have a great deal more success than previous summer reading programs.

In my opinion students would get so much more out of reading if they were permitted to read books they actually enjoyed.  I don’t think they should pick completely random books that have nothing to do with education and learning, but I found many new novels through the library workshop that could replace some of the books students struggle enjoying in schools today.  The books are newer and seem more relatable to students.  I understand certain books have been in the curriculum forever now and that those books are important, but sometimes we need new things to spark an interest.  Kid’s hardly ever say “hey I love reading” so maybe if they were able to choose their own reading material or have a new sort of genera instituted in their classrooms this would change.

PLN REPORT!

April 6, 2010

It’s taken me a few days to get up the courage to start reflecting and critiquing my blog, but I think I am finally ready to give it a shot. To be completely honest I was not really a fan of the PLN at all in the beginning. It took me awhile to get going on the PLN and blogging. I felt like I could not really connect with this type of assignment and having little to no requirements made it hard for me to want to work on it. It’s not that I didn’t want to do it or explore the wonderful world of the internet, this PLN thing is just something that was totally new to me, and I was not very comfortable with it. I like having set guidelines and assignments or work on something I know something about, but when it comes to figuring things out on my own it tends to get a lot harder for me. I am not saying I hate the PLN and dread it all together because recently I have come to get a better understanding of the project as a whole. I just struggled a little getting started and finding a purpose for the PLN. Below I would like to analyze my overall progress on my PLN in a few different areas.

STATS

Grade-Average

Above are images of my daily, weekly, and monthly stats. Unfortunately the daily stats could not go back any farther so there is only a month view for that section.

These charts show my overall blog and post stats. I am impressed with my stats for the most part, but there is some definite room for improvement. On a personal level I am proud that I was able to get so many views and visits to my page but in comparison to my other classmates I think I could get my number up.

QUALITY

Grade-Average

I think the overall quality of my posts has been pretty good.  They all touch on important topics that relate to both everyday life and the teaching world.  I was able to connect all of my posts back to teaching and the field of education which in my opinion is important.  We are doing this project in a class where we are leaning about education and our major so I felt that I should try to tie that into my posts.  I also made sure my posts were around 600 words which is about a page in a word document.  They all have a pretty good amount of detail and description, but not to much that they are boring to read.  I also added links into my posts from different sites and blogs.  A few of my blogs have links to my other classmates blogs and then different articles or videos.  I think I could improve in this area just by adding more outside sources to my blog.  Linking together more sites and more blogs would help the overall quality of my blog posts by providing support for what I am blogging about.

CONSISTENCY

Grade-Poor

The overall consistency of my blog is very poor and there is much room for improvement.  I have only posted six times which I am not very happy about.  I really wish I would have kept up with blogging more.  I posted about every two weeks since we started our blogs, but that is not very impressive.  I plan to really step it up in this section and post more frequently as the semester comes to an end in order to hopefully fully develop my PLN.  I must say in my defense that just because I have not posted nearly as much/often as I should have does not mean I was not doing the work.  I learned many new things through this PLN process and have established many new connections and knowledge I did not previously have.  My only mistake was not blogging about all the new things I was learning.  I am not one to express myself in this sort of way so I think that is why I struggled most with the blog posts.  I know I need to improve on this section a great deal before my final PLN is completed, and I plan to put a great deal of effort into making these changes.

CONVERSATION

Grade-Excellent

In this area of my PLN I think I have done a very good job of establishing connections and communicating with new people in and out of the field of education.  I have stated 3 different discussions on English Companion Ning all of which have a significant amount of comments and responses.  The discussions deal with teaching to the test, class discussions on texts, and faking excitement about a book.  I have also commented on multiple discussions on ECN that I did not start, and have been following them as more people respond.  As well as using ECN I also commented on a classroom 2.0 discussion regarding technology in the classroom and have been following that particular discussion as it’s updated.  I have also been commenting on my classmates blogs as well as my professors blog.  I was also able to connect with some of my teachers from high school through linkedin which was really exciting!  I think this is the strongest aspect of my PLN  by far and has taught me the most throughout this process.  Over the next few weeks I plan to follow my discussions and comment more on my classmates blogs, and keep doing what I’m doing with ECN as far as conversations and communications go.

IMPROVEMENT

There are a lot of things that I can improve upon in my PLN as a whole.  I plan to blog more often and more consistently so I can share the different things I am learning through the PLN.  I also plan to link more things up to my blog so that readers/viewers can see where my information is coming from.  I think with some time and effort I can get my blog up to the standards set by the rest of my classmates so that I have a strong working PLN.  I want to be able to use this project to my benefit in the future so I am going to try my best to produce an excellent PLN that contains reliable sources and information.  I have some very strong aspects to my blog and PLN overall, but I want to make my weaker area’s stronger which I plan on doing through the rest of the semester.  I know I can do better and I plan to improve greatly.  For now I give my C+ with high hopes of bringing that grade up through improving in all the areas that need it.

My goal for the end of the semester=MAKE THIS THING BETTER!!!


Video Chat in and out of the Classroom!

March 31, 2010

Hope this made you laugh =] Just an example of how some people use the Skype technology.

Since getting my Mac this year I have stated using different kinds of video chat programs. I have never had a computer with a webcam before so this was all very new to me. When I talk to my sister who is also away at college we use Ichat because she too has a Mac, but when I talk to my sisters at home I use Skype because they are using a PC. I have found both programs very easy to use and haven’t had to many problems with them. Occasionally Skype will freeze up and I’ll have to start the call over, but that’s been my biggest problem so far. I am really interested by this form of technology. It’s really interesting that you can talk to someone that’s pretty much anywhere and see their face right in front of you. In one of my other classes the topic of global connections came up; the topic of video chatting was one of the technology we mentioned. Today many people don’t even think twice about video chatting with people on the other side of the world. We talk to friends and relatives that are visiting or studying in different countries, and businesses use video chats and conferences all the time these days for many reasons. If we were to go back as little as ten years people would be blown away by this concept. Our generation embraces new technologies where as our parents and grandparents still may struggle with the idea of talking to someone thousands of miles away.

A few weeks ago my education class had the opportunity to speak with students from Penn State and two other universities that were studying in Sweden. They are preservice teachers just like my class only they are doing their studies overseas with a university there. This was my first video “conference call” so I was very interested in the whole situation. We walked into a room and sat around a table then right in front of us on a huge TV screen was another group of students doing the same thing. It was amazing. We were able to sit there for a while and talk back and forth about our different experiences. It was really a great learning experience for us. All of us were so interested in talking to them and learning about the different things they were getting to do. Through sharing questions and experiences we got to learn about the program they are involved in and they learned more about us and our system. It was a great experience and I think both groups learned from it.

To tie this all into our field of English education I started thinking about how this type of technology could be used in the classroom. I know many people use such programs and tools to talk to friends far away but is there a way to incorporate video chatting into the class room? I found a very interesting article about different ways to incorporate Skype into teaching and the classroom. One teacher was able to set up a video chat with her classroom and one of the authors they were learning about. This gave the students an opportunity to put a name to a face giving them more of a connection. Another teacher uses Skype in her foreign language classes. She and her students chat with people in different countries helping her students understand the language they are learning. One teacher also talks about using Skype to share information with parents. Parents are so busy that sometimes they do not have time to go meet with the teachers. Using Skype as a conference tool could be very beneficial to both the parents and the teacher. The teacher is still getting to talk to student’s parents and getting the face to face interaction. This article lists a bunch of resources for Skype as well and was to incorporate it into the classroom setting. I think there are some very good resources here for teachers and ways to use this popular social technology.

I think overall using this technology in the classroom could be very useful. Technology is only going to keep expanding and getting even more crazy than we can image there for I think we need to embrace the materials it provides and use it to the best of our ability. I know I complained about technology in my last blog, but this week I’m a big fan of technology. Guess it just depends on the mood I’m in! I think it is fascinating that we can talk to people over sea’s and in different parts of the world and still see them. We can look at their faces and see them talk rather than communicating through phone/email/letters. It is a great advancement and the education world can benefit greatly from it. We are a field of learns and we have connections all over. If we use this technology to connect with fellow educators around the globe our learning could be endless!