Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Blog Review #5

Blog Review #5

This is a blog created and operated by two special education teachers in the United States. A warning though; you could spend a really long time on their site browsing through all the resources they have compiled. Patrick Black and Jeremy have complied an extremely useful website that teachers of special education classes and otherwise would find valuable. Jeremy uses interactive whiteboards in his class as well as ipads. Patrick uses all kinds of technology in his classroom, and works to integrate technology into the classroom for the purposes of “communication, cognition, and socialization”. Patrick also creates podcasts, and speaks by request at schools and conferences. This blog has over one hundred thousand hits so many are following what these two talented teachers are doing.

The design of the blog itself is clean and simple with a few tabs on the top of the page to help navigate to the various sections. The sections include app reviews, resources, AT Blog Carnival, workshops, and information about Jeremy and Patrick. I spent a lot of time looking through their app reviews which they do regularly. After reviewing the apps they group them into appropriate categories so that you can find suitable apps easier. Categories for this include fine motor, classroom management, language/literacy, life skills, sensory integration, music etc. As mentioned earlier Patrick offers workshops for topics like creating PLN’s, google apps, ipod/iphone uses, and boardmaker.

The AT Blog Carnival is a type of blog community that I was unfamiliar with until coming across it at this website. Blog carnivals tend to collect links on a particular topic and share the information in a type of on-line magazine. Blog carnivals have topics, editors, contributors, and obviously an audience. This collaborative work is an attractive and engaging way to share material and resources with colleagues in education. Jeremy and Patrick have four blog carnivals that you can browse through which I found to be interesting.

Under the resources tab for their blog they have created various categories like accessibility, assistive technology, activity shares, inclusion, livebinders, professional development, twitter chats, and podcasts.

Patrick and Jeremy receive no money to endorse the products they review. They just offer their opinions and insight on applications they find useful. One app they convinced me to get on my ipod was Word Wizard, which I think might get my three year old reading and writing a little quicker! Or at the very least he might just have another way to interact with, and become familiar with letters and words. Word Wizard uses text to speech voices to help children learn how to spell words. The app specifically targets letter recognition, phonics, spelling and sentence construction. The app works really well and its simple interface makes learning how to use the app easy. Patrick and Jeremy typically review various aspects of an app and then offer a few suggestions for improvement. One suggestion they had for this app was to allow for additional voices (including your own voice). Right now the app uses a standard voice which you can manipulate a bit in the settings. It’s a great app and Patrick and Jeremy do a good job of finding resources and making them available to all who follow their blog.

I would recommend this blog to any teacher or parent interested in learning more about positive technology use in education. The site is very well organized and run by two special education teachers who are doing a great job at sharing their own professional development with the rest of us.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Blog Review #4

Blog Review #4

            I came across this interesting blog which is definitely aimed at fellow educators. David Warlick is a self described 35 year educator based out of North Carolina. He has been a classroom teacher, district administrator, and staff consultant with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. He is an author, a speaker, and a consultant. He is a big advocate for blogging in the classroom and is influential regarding education and uses of technology in that area.

I decided to review his blog called “2cents” which consists of his thoughts, ideas, and commentary on education, but not exclusively limited to education. There are some posts unrelated to education but they make up a small portion of posts.  I appreciated reading through his blog, and see the beneficial nature of learning from quality educators like David regarding their thought processes and passions pertaining to education and technology.

The site itself is very well designed and easy to navigate. He also added something interesting to his blog through the website idiogo.com. A synopsis of what Odiogo does is, “transform a blog post into a high quality (near human) audio file ready to play and download anywhere, anytime, and on any device.” This is a great idea which I have yet to see on any blog, but is one I would use in the future. It makes your website instantly accessible to those who would benefit from an audio file. As an interesting tangent Odiogo also provides an iphone app which reads your personal news to you.

There are so many posts on his blog but one that caught my interest was his most commented upon on the idea of students versus learners. David writes about the possibility of teachers moving away from seeing their “charges as students, rather than thinking of them as learners.” David presents himself as a “master learner”, someone who is resourceful while constantly engaging with new ideas. He created an interesting chart comparing students and learners to emphasize the difference in the way we think about education. Students tend to compete with each other; learners collaborate. Students obediently follow instructions like employees; learners are invested in the process. Students are compelled to work; learners are curious. Students are assessed by measuring what they have learned; learners are measured by what they can do with what they have learned.

Many of David’s posts will cause you to stop and think about the way in which traditional education can be transformed into something new.  It might also stop you from thinking that technology in and of itself is the key to educating students of this generation. In another post David warns against a heavy focus on the actual technological device or mechanism (ex. Social media), and instead teaches that we should focus on what happens through the technology.

I think that this kind of modelled reflective practice is the type of mental disposition that will allow teachers to be on the leading edge of change. Teachers should be leading in both using and teaching technology effectively. If teachers choose not to change they risk kicking and screaming the whole way down the road, ineffectively clinging to the past to the detriment of their students.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Blog Review #3

Blog Review #3

Brenda Sherry has created a great website that an educator will find useful and thought provoking. This well constructed website was recognized by the Canadian Weblog Awards. Brenda works as a tech coach in Ontario with her interests in “incorporating technology in constructivist learning environments.” Brenda places an emphasis on critical thinking and deep understanding, which can be easily overlooked in an information rich world. One of the quotes found on her website was “what kind of thinkers do we want our students to be, rather than what stuff do we want our students to know?” This is a great thing for educators to focus on, which makes a move away from teacher delivered content to real student initiated learning.  

Brenda has categorized her website into various categories so that you can easily find articles on key subjects like coaching, collaboration, web 2.0, media, technology, constructivism etc. The website itself is simple, easy to navigate and visually appealing. You can also follow Brenda through twitter. Brenda’s focus for the website is equipping educators with valuable resources and articles to stimulate thinking. These educators build on each others ideas and link to each others updates.. Brenda’s website demonstrates collaboration among peers with an emphasis on technology.

One way Brenda shares her learning process is by writing about what she has learned after attending professional development, or from other learning experiences. One post that Brenda added was about her experience in delving into social media and online learning communities. Brenda listed three tips for getting into networked communities of educators. She said that she was inspired to do this after attending an Elluminate session. The first tip was to “get on there!”. She writes that it is a good way to find people who share your interests, find resources, and get rich professional learning on an ongoing basis. Her second tip was “Don’t Worry About Seeing Everything.” Teachers are often very thorough, and Brenda believes that letting you off the hook on reading and responding to everything is important. Her third tip was to “share your thinking online”. There is so much unspoken knowledge, Brenda writes, that should be shared. She sees on-line learning communities as a potential global staffroom for those who are interested in the best for the students.

I would recommend this website to any teacher interested in furthering their own learning. Brenda really wants to promote critical thinking among her educational peers. This kind of collaboration among teachers will foster potential for innovation. This reflective process for teachers will lead to well informed ideas infused with imagination. 

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Blog Review #2

July 9, 2011

Website http://classblogmeister.com/blog.php?blogger_id=67293

This blog was developed and maintained by a teacher named Tracy Muller. I thought her blog looked good for students and teachers, and it had some interesting technology aspects to it.  Tracy teaches in the Upper Grand School Board and likes to incorporate technology into her classroom, and I’m sure her students enjoy the fact that their teacher is tech savvy. Her website has over five thousand hits which I thought was impressive.  

One of the things I really liked about her blog was how parents and students are given a great way to stay in touch with things happening in the classroom. She uses the blog kind of like a journal for classroom highlights which can be shared with whoever is interested. She also uses the site to communicate specifically with students and to provide them with educational links to further enhance their learning opportunities.

One idea that I would like to use from Tracy is how she incorporates geocaching into her classroom. Geocaching, for those who are not familiar with it, is kind of like a modern version of a treasure hunting game. You need a GPS device, some co-ordinates to go searching for, and then you can spend as much time as you want to searching for the treasure (specific GPS location). Geocachers hide a container of some sort at specific co-ordinates (geocaches). They can leave something of their own in the container, and take something with them from the container to leave at further location. I think students would love an activity like this. It taps into the geography aspects of school and gives the students a chance to use modern technology in a game.

Another inspiring idea I learned about after going through Tracy’s blog was how she incorporated digital audio into her class. The class went on a trip to Doon Heritage Village to learn about early pioneers. On the trip Tracy had pictures taken from various things they saw while at the trip. She then assigned a picture to various students and they needed to create a digital audio description to go with the picture. I thought this was a great idea to generate student created material. The website she used was called voicethread.com which is definitely a website I plan on using in the future.

My only complaint would be that the blog could use some sprucing up. I think that the layout is a bit awkward, but the pros outweigh the cons and I would recommend this blog to anyone looking for a good way to broaden the communication from the classroom to the home.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Educational Blog - Review #1

July 4, 2011

I thought I would review this education blog first since I know this teacher from the board that I teach in. Rob is great with technology and has been developing his blog for a little over a year. If I had any questions about tech in the classroom he would be the first person I would try to get a hold of.

His blog is very well laid out and although he has posted over 150 times to his site I really like that it only loads up four or five of his most recent posts. He has geared his site to appeal to both students and educators. This is great because I would imagine most sites are just geared for one or the other.

His title gives a synopsis of what you can expect when visiting his site. “A collection of educational articles, ideas, and websites relevant to Kindergarten to grade eight classrooms”.

Rob tries to find websites that will be engaging to students and facilitate learning. One typing website that he reviews for his May 5, 2011 post is called “dance mat” typing. His caption for this site; “This is a fun website with animation and games to help students aged 7 to 11 to learn the right way to type. Say no to "chicken peck" (one finger typing) :)”. I have seen students in many schools use this website for practicing their keyboarding and students truly enjoy this time. The website is musical, colourful, and humorous which manages to keep students engaged while working on an essential skill for the world we live in.

If you click on the tab near the top of his page that reads “for educators” you will come to a list of posts that provide resources to teachers. Rob recently taught a workshop on smart boards and has posted the handout he created for the presentation. In another post Rob mentions bitstrips for schools, which I have seen used effectively in the classroom. Bitstrips allow the student to create their own comics while allowing their fellow to students to see their work, and for the teacher to moderate through their own account.

A school that I taught in this year for a short period is doing a pilot project using google docs. Rob reviews google docs briefly in his blog and mentions some of the appeal of using this in a classroom setting. This would allow for students to access school work independent of a school network of computers. You could access your work, instructions, schedules from home with a computer and an internet connection.

Overall, I think this education blog is well worth checking out. I think it is a great way for a teacher to provide students with fun, educational resources throughout the school year. It is also a great way for teachers to share great ideas and learn from each other.