May 09 2010

Post-Course Reflection

Well, the semester went by very quickly.  I reread my pre-course reflection and it seems as though I just wrote that yesterday.  I have to say that I was able to keep up with no problem in this class despite my concerns.  We were introduced to many new technologies and most were simple to use and learn.  The one that caused the most difficulty was Second Life, but with support I was able to learn how to use it.  I am not an expert by any means, but can certainly use Second Life to visit ISTE and VSTE Islands and attend events there.

The most useful technology I learned for T/TAC work is Elluminate.  I found it easy to use and had opportunity to be  a participant as well as moderator (with the rest of the class, of course).  I think this will be most useful with the teachers we serve.

The technology I found most beneficial for personal use is Net Vibes where I have organized my newsletters, facebook, twitter, and blogs.  It was easy to just visit one site to access all of these other sites and tools.  I will definitely continue to use Net Vibes as well as Diigo for organizing information and links.

I do not plan to continue using the game sites and programming tools we downloaded for either personal or professional use, but I am glad I have a working knowledge of these technologies.  I will continue to visit the VSTE Ning, but won’t be posting my blog of the book I chose.  I struggled so much with understanding what I read and keeping up with it, that I cannot give either a positive or negative review that would make any sense to anyone.

The final project was helpful in a number of ways.  I was able to learn how to create video that can be posted to the web and how to organize and moderate a webinar in Elluminate.

I am glad that I took the risk and enrolled in this class.  It is important to be aware of the many technologies that are out there and how they can support and enhance education.  Technology is changing rapidly, but I have a better handle on how to keep up with that change from both a professional and personal standpoint.

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Apr 18 2010

Internet Privacy

The book I am reading has been addressing how to control and provide structure in cyberspace.  There have been no clear answers and, in fact, there has been a lot of talk about how difficult this could be.  I was reading my William and Mary alumni magazine this week and discovered an article on internet privacy.  The title of the article is Who Holds the Key to Your Internet Privacy? by Brittney Pescatore.

I decided to blog about this article as it was much easier to read and follow than my book and addressed a similar topic.  The article addresses the concern that much of our private information is “floating around in cyberspace”.  It documents how simple it is for our information to be discovered.  Often, we don’t think about these issues when using the search engines and social networking sites that are so popular.  I think it is more of a concern for people when banking or purchasing on-line.  The reality is that, unless we are diligent about the security and privacy settings of our computers and the sites we visit, we will be unable to keep our information private.

The author of this article notes that private businesses are the ones we must target.  These folks are not going to make changes unless their users initiate them and have a voice.  However, Pescatore notes that the best way to avoid invasion of privacy is to avoid putting it out there.    It is most likely important for people to evaluate the information they are posting before doing so. In other words, thinking to themselves about whether or not they want everyone to view it.

Pescatore goes on to address internet security as opposed to privacy.  She interviewed the IT folks at William and Mary who discussed the phishing schemes that have come through the e-mail system at the college.  It amazes me that students at William and Mary have responded to the phishing schemes and shared their passwords via e-mail.  I would think it would raise an immediate red flag.

The author sums up the article and addresses the future of these issues.  How a big of a concern is this for people, how can we further address it, and how much risk are we willing to take in order to keep moving forward?

Some tips that were included: check default privacy setting, look at browser controls, and watch out for cookies.

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Apr 11 2010

Using My e-Reader

Filed under Cyberspace

I purchased an e-reader in December and have used it mainly for personal reading.  I have thoroughly enjoyed it for this purpose.  I have downloaded a couple of articles to read for work and found that to be convenient and “green”.

The book I chose to read for class I purchased as an e-book.  There have been pros and cons to making this choice.  It has been convenient to carry the e-reader to appointments and when traveling.  I can then choose to read my class book or something for my enjoyment and only have had to carry one item.  It is slim, fairly lightweight, and pocket-sized so it fits easily into my purse.

The problem has been the blogging.  As I’ve noted in an earlier blog, I’ve chosen to read In Search of Jefferson’s Moose.  In this book I have been reading a lot about history, geography, math, and science.  I’ve also read some on technology, but not much that would be interesting to discuss in a blog.  If I had the print version of the book, I could flip through and read chapters that may be more interesting for blogging purposes.  It isn’t as easy to do this on the e-reader.  I could review the table of contents and hope to pick the right chapter.  However, I have not gotten comfortable with flipping through pages.  With a print book I could scan through a chapter more quickly.

If I were to be honest, I would tell you that I also have issues with skipping parts of books.  I prefer to read cover to cover. Also, I have found the items related to Jefferson’s time very interesting.  I have recently begun one of three chapters on “Governing Cyberspace”.  Most likely I will find more items about which to blog.  Stay tuned…

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Mar 28 2010

Addressing Technical Difficulties

One of the barriers to using technology in education is the technical difficulty that may occur.  Some of us had this type of trouble during our class in Second Life.  We had sound problems, crashing computers, unplanned log outs, etc.  Before attempting to use any type of technology for learning, we must overcome these difficulties.

Something I’ve noticed over the past couple of months is that not everyone has difficulty with the same technologies.  For example, some folks had no trouble with Second Life on Wednesday, while others had a great deal of difficulty.  Another example is the Skype/ooVoo issue that Dale and I have come across.  Dale has trouble using Skype on her computer.  I have trouble with ooVoo.  Does this mean we cannot use this type of technology to meet remotely?  Is there something else out there that will work for both of us?

These problems will need to be addressed when choosing technology for professional development, meetings, and other distance events.  Elluminate seemed to work for everyone in the class.  That is one of the reasons I wanted Sue, Fritz, Dale and I to use this for our project.  It will be important for us to discover the technologies that will cause the least trouble for our audiences.

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Mar 18 2010

A History Lesson

Well, I’m reading about math, history, economics, and science in this book.  It has been interesting so far, but I have little to share about current technology at this point.  In Chapter 3, David Post compares Virginia’s population growth to the growth of the “inter network” (both growing geometrically).  He provides the geometric equations for these numbers, but I will skip that here.  What I found interesting about this (certainly not the geometric equations) was the number of machines connected together on a global TCP/IP network in 1969 as compared to 2008:

Dec 69 – four

Jan 08 – 541,677,360

Post goes on to explain why TCP/IP become “the internet” rather than a number of other options in the 80’s.  This may be economics, or something else, but the bottom line: as the internet becomes bigger it becomes more valuable.  As it becomes more valuable, more people join and it becomes bigger.

Back to history:  The “network” for Jefferson was the network of rivers. Post notes that Jefferson wrote more about rivers in Notes on Virginia than any other subject.  The author is obviously not from eastern Virginia.  He indicates that he did not know where the Pamunkey and Mattapony rivers are located which are noted in Jefferson’s written work.

Chapter 4 deals more in science, specifically biology, zoology and physics (help, Lori!).  There was an ongoing debate between Thomas Jefferson and George Louis LeClerc Buffon regading animal size in the new world.  Buffon, a respected French naturalist, wrote about the relative sizes of animals in the old world versus the new world.  He states that there are “smaller-sized, scaled-down versions” of animals in the new world.  Jefferson challenged this theory.  Post writes of Jefferson’s “chutzpah” in challenging a noted scientist.  “After all Jefferson did not study zoology or natural histroy  he studied law at the College of William and Mary, an institution that Buffon surely never even heard of, having only been formed a few decades before. (To put things in perspective, the Sorbonne in Paris had, by this time, been in existence for more than five hundred years).  A little backwater academy in the wilds of Virginia would hardly have been regarded by educated Eurpeans as a suitable training ground for a scientist capable of challenging Buffon.”

I stopped reading exactly there so that I would remember to note it in this blog.  It is funny how William and Mary is certainly no longer considered a “little backwater academy.”  So, I don’t have much to share on technology, but thought you might find this amusing.

Increase the student’s independence
Are designed for the student’s continued use after high school

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Mar 08 2010

In Search of Jefferson’s Moose – Prologue and Chapter 1

I chose a book based upon two criteria: 1) I could get it for my e-reader and 2)  it was of interest to me.  The book that fit these criteria is In Search of Jefferson’s Moose – Notes on the State of Cyberspace by David G. Post.

In the Prologue the author points out how people refer to cyberspace as a place when it is not a place at all, rather a “bunch of connections between places”.  He raises questions about how we can control this “place”.  He asks whether there should be rules, who should make them, and what law will look like.  He suggests that he needs a “guide” through this new territory.  Post identifies Thomas Jefferson as a potential guide through the world of technology.  His reasoning is that Jefferson “has much to teach about new worlds”.

In Chapter One Post shares the map that Thomas Jefferson created of Virginia and the Peacock Map created by Hal Burch and Bill Cheswick of the internet.  Post points out that the Peacock Map does nothing that we expect a map will do.  There is no scale – it cannot tell us the distance between locations (and it really isn’t necessary to do so).  Distance has nothing to do with the speed of movement to different locations on the internet.

Post’s analogy of cyberspace as a new world is an interesting one.  This “new world” has basically made our old one much smaller.  We can connect with and learn from people around the globe in ways that we could not before. However, I agree that there is potential for abuse (already taking place) within this realm.  Post raises some interesting questions.  We’ll see what insight he obtains from Jefferson that will guide us as we navigate this new frontier.

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Feb 28 2010

Reflections on My Learning

I am actually pleased with what I’ve learned in this class so far.  I feel much more comfortable with joining new sites and navigating the many different technologies.  I still have a long way to go, but I feel that I’ve gotten this far with few difficulties.

I even gotten comfortable with, and more accepting of Twitter.  There is a lot to keep up with (Ning, Diigo, Twitter, blogs, etc.)  However, the Net Vibes site helped me to organize these links in one location.  I can just click on that bookmark and keep up from there.

The night we had class on Elluminate went very smoothly.  It was easy to understand how to use this technology.  I was impressed with how responsive Karen was to everyone, keeping up with chat, live talk, and flashing signals.

The only real difficulty I’ve encountered is with Second Life.  This is going to be a bigger learning curve for me.  It is very diffierent from any technology I’ve used. I have created my avatar, but keep getting lost and findng myself surrounded by strange people. I am open to advice and suggestions.

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Feb 21 2010

Final Thoughts on Teachers and Machines

There is so much to which I could respond in the last two parts of Cuban’s book.  I have many notes written into the margins of the book, but I will only address a few.  I had to take into account the time frame in which this book was written.  In 1986, people could have no conception of how quickly computer technology would change, how small computers could be, or how interactive they would become.  Cuban talks of desk-top computers available for every student and we are reading articles (a mere twenty-four years later)  of hand-held devices being used in classrooms.  Cuban addressed technology in education over eight decades.  The change from classroom technology including desk-tops to hand-held devices took place over only two decades.

Some things have not changed, however.  Cuban states, “Growing concern for the Unites States losing its grip on markets that had U.S. stamped all over them (e.g. steel, autos, and high tech industries) drove corporate officials to examine public schools and to join lawmakers in what came to be viewed as a national problem: the inefficiency of U.S. schools in producing sufficient numbers of engineers, mathematicians, technicians, and workers flexible enough to survive in a rapidly changing workplace” (p. 75).  This continues to be a concern today.  We will not correct this problem by keeping technology at a minimum in our schools.

I love the idea of  “labs where teachers and students jointly become discoverers of truths” (p. 82).  It reminds me of what Lori described in her blog about what is happening in her physics classes. Students take ownership of their learning when given opportunities to be active, rather than passive in the learning process.  It provides opportunities for goal-setting, decision-making, choice-making and self-direction – all components of self-determination.  It is these self-determination skills that help students become “flexible enough to survive the rapidly changing workplace” that Cuban noted on page 75 (noted above).

Cuban compares computer technology to radio and television.  I see no comparison.  Perhaps in the early 1980’s this may have been a valid comparison.  With the change to Web 2.0 and now 3.0, you can no longer make a comparision.  Radio and television only allowed students to be passive participants in the learning process.  Today’s computers and internet allow students to be active, collaborative participants. Another significant difference is that radio and television were used in leisure activities outside of the school environment.  While that is true of computers, in most cases they are used professionally as well.  Students need to be prepared to access this technology in the careers they pursue.

There also continues to be the problem of “knotty policy questions over how to computerize classrooms” (p. 83).  As we discussed in class the other night and Mane suggested, the integration of technologies into classrooms will require complex planning and the involvement of all parties.  The security issues I raised in class will have to be addressed.  I believe this is possible, but it cannot be done without dialogue and planning.

We make a mistake when we look at changes with one lens.  It cannot be a one-size fits all model.  There must be a hybrid approach.  Teachers will not be replaced, but their roles may change.  They will still be the instructional leaders, but will also be facilitators of student-lead learning.

One final comment is related to Cuban’s discussion of deinstitutionalization.  He ommitted a couple of important pieces of information.  Institutions were inhumane settings in many cases.  Patients were often abused, and were living in sub-human conditions.  There were “potentially grave human consequences” (p. 102) of leaving them in those conditions.  However, the transition to communities for these individuals was done without careful planning, and without addressing the individual needs of each patient.  If we are to compare that effort with the move toward integrating computers into schools (I wouldn’t), then we have to consider the mistakes made.  To effectively make this transition, careful planning must take place, and individual student and teacher needs must be  taken into account.

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Feb 12 2010

Internet School Bus

I just posted an interesting article on Diigo – “Wi-Fi Turns Rowdy Bus into Rolling Study Hall.”  This article discusses the use of internet on an “Internet Bus”  in a school division in Vail, Arizona.  I think this is an innovative idea.  They’ve turned the school buses into what they call an internet cafe. This school division had already provided laptops to students rather than textbooks.  This took care of the concern about cost and access for all students.

Then they purchased wi-fi access on a school bus for student use to and from school and sports events. Athletes sometimes have to leave school early to attend events.  Having internet access for the bus ride could keep them connected to the classroom or at least allow them time to do some make-up work.

The article notes that some students were playing games, but the students were behaved and the bus ride quieter.  This would also cut back on distractions for bus drivers.  This is just an experiment that started in the fall.  It will be interesting to see if the novelty wears off for students and you see an increase in activity, interaction, and behavior problems at a later date.  In the meantime, it is certainly one way to integrate technology into schools and school buses.

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Feb 06 2010

Teachers and Machines – Repeated Patterns

George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  We’ve seen throughout our educational history a repeat of past mistakes.  Cuban’s book about our history of the introduction of technology to the classroom shows that we continue to ignore past experiences.  Much of what I read in the second chapter describes what happens in education currently.  For example, the “educational fads that have marked the course of public schooling in this country” (p. 33) continue to plague us today.

Television is the “fad” that is addressed in chapter 2.  The purpose of introducing television into the Hagerstown, Maryland school district was to address the problems of unqualified teachers and overcrowded classrooms.  Over $1.5 million dollars was invested to address these problems.  The money was directed towards technology.  The teachers were “taught” how to use this technology by watching teachers on a TV screen.  If the teachers were not capable of providing quality instruction, why would we expect that they could learn to provide this instruction through a new classroom technology without quality professional development?  We know that the greatest impact on student learning is effective instruction.  That being the case, how does providing new technology to unqualified teachers improve student learning?

As Cuban notes in Chapter 2, superintendents and school boards made the decision to introduce the television into the classroom and teachers were not involved until it was time to install the equipment.  This is what we see regularly in today’s schools.  Funds are allocated for new technology, but decisions are made without teacher input.

It is clearly a band-aid approach to the problems in public education.  Teachers are expected to implement the use of new technologies that administrators select.  Yet, the professional development teachers require to use the tools effectively is not necessarily provided.

The results of a study described on page 45  identifed two of eight teacherswho provided advance preparation or follow-up for students with content provided via televsion.  This is a demonstration of technology as a “throw in” rather than a thoughtful immersion into the curriculum.

Cuban has the right idea – we need to look at why past technologies have not been used effectively or for any length of time before moving forward.

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