Monday, March 7, 2011

My Final Summative Project

     Well, here it is.  The final blog?  No!  Those who know me, know you can't get me to shut up that easily.  Although, this may be my final blog for ICT class, it is not going to be my final blog.  I'm going to take this site in a new direction
                        the only problem is
                                                      I don't know which direction yet    : )

But for a final project in class, I decided to attempt to sum up my entire life in the education program at BU, focusing on the ICT portion of it, in less than 5 minutes.  (That's because gave me a 5 minute max.  lol)  I would just like to close by letting it be known, that these pictures were in fact referenced in my power point presentation, but it was cut off when videoized.
     Those that took the time to read and comment on my blog, I thank you, it was a lot of fun.
But a special thanks goes out to professor Nantais, Mike, thank you very much.  You walked me through both of my ICT classes and through a Math methods course.  These courses were the highlights of my 2 years in education and were among the most useful as well!


Friday, March 4, 2011

Our Final Visitor, Dr. Alec Couros

            Well, this was it, our final visitor in a series of excellent presenters in the field of ICT.  Dr. Alec Couros, an education technology professor at the University of Regina, found the time to visit us via elluminate (a skype-like program for those who are unfamiliar).  He shared with us his views on PLNs and PLEs (Personal Learning Networks / Environments), we took a look at the networked teacher, and we had a chance to discuss the various beneficial websites online.
            One thing I enjoyed was the idea that the students should also have the freedom to set up their own personal PLN/Es.  A great example was the following video which was shown to us.  It’s a video of a young lady who was using symbaloo to improve her PLE.

            Together with a nice round table about the programs we use and ideas to make them better, such as using screenr with twitter and using dropittome with dropbox, we had a fantastic visit with Dr. Couros.  Thank-you very much to him for taking time out of his schedule to say a few words to our class.  Especially just a few days after making one of the keynote speeches at our school for westcast recently. 

Mr. Darren Kuropatwa Comes To Town

1620  <---  link to teacher tube video

     The above linked video is what our class was opened with.  1620.  That's a pretty large number when put into most contexts, but this was the number that was calculated to determine how many tests the average student would write by the time they graduated high school.  Then the video ended asking a simple question...  "is there a better way?"

     Well, I agree with Mr. Kuropatwa getting outraged at having something like this broadcast across the net.  Is this in fact what people think of teachers?  Test giving machines?  Too bad it wasn't that easy, just assign some textbook work, hand out some tests, call it a day!  Wow... teachers have the easiest job in the world!

     Now, let's fastforward out of the 1900's view of teachers and step into something a little more current.  Today's classrooms are seeing fewer and fewer orderly rows, teachers talking, and tests being thrown at the students indiscriminately.  Students are starting to leave their seats, converse with one another, and are taking many different paths to achieve the same outcomes.  Isn't this a better way? 

     I think we have found a better way, and I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Kuropatwa for coming in and introducing us to some additional ideas out there.  A couple of these ideas that I will try and integrate in my classroom (when I get one) will be using flickr and its hotspots for some good collaboration assignments, and using youtube to publish a false video that the students would have to repair… a good  error analysis approach.

     One final note I’d like to throw in is a video we were introduced to, which along with some good moral applications also has many possible educational applications as well.  The video is great and I’d like to try to make something myself for a science style question… enjoy…

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Class Video ... "Filtering & Blocking the Internet in Schools"

For class recently, the students grouped up to do presentations on various internet related topics.  These were all very well done and help deepen my understanding of the cyber world.  However, one that stuck with me was Tiffany, Alanna and Dory‘s video on filtering and blocking of the internet in schools.  They really got me right off the hop with their intro, flashing many familiar “this site is blocked” type of screen shots.   In two of my student teaching placements (both in Brandon) I had to deal with the overly protected internet, and thus the loss of a large amount of the most helpful information around.  My eyes were finally opened in my last placement, in Dauphin, where there was a lot more freedom.  Social networking sites were still blocked out, but many of the sites (youtube immediately pops to mind) that made my job of presenting different views on one topic were accessible.
The funniest thing about the filtering of the internet, which the video points out with a great short clip, is how there is ways around the filters.  The funny part is, the students are more likely to find these loopholes than the teachers are.  The problem that arises is that now the students are going online unmonitored.  Most of the students, presenters we’ve had the pleasure of seeing in class, and myself feel that with the way world and the technology is progressing we have no choice now but to teach what it means to be responsible online.  We have to teach what it means to create a positive online presence.  We have to teach students how to keep themselves safe when online.  And we can’t do that if we don’t have access!
Lots of good quotes and comments that made me do lots of good thinking.  Great video Tiffany, Alanna, and Dory!

Friday, February 25, 2011

iPads... They suck... Well, Maybe They're OK... Well; How Much For One?...

     Well, this is a video for anyone who thinks an iPad would be tough to learn how to use.  This video is of my son Cory, who's just shy of 2 years old.  He saw his Auntie Janie playing with her iPhone, and then saw his Daddy looking at pictures on his iTouch.  That was enough, he became an expert.  As a huge Toy Story fan, I had no choice to find some kind of app for him to play with.  I think he saw it twice before he decided he knew where it was and how to get at it.  This is one of the first few times he tried to find it on his own. 
     Now, backtracking a little bit, I shall give a quick blab about what I thought of the iPad. 

I didn't like it.  How's that?  Plain and simple enough?  I have a calendar that has important dates written on it.  Any assignments or information (phone numbers, email addresses, etc.) are stored on my laptop, desktop, and cell phone.  Most homework I do requires a word processor, so a keyboard is essential and I know how to type pretty well, so if I don't have the "bumpy" f and j keys I'll never know where my fingers are.  With my life being setup on other devices already, the iPad was nothing more that a large gaming device.

     Fast forward to my views today....

I've got a 2 year old (as of Feb 26, 2011) who can open it and find an interactive book with no troubles.  He read through (and by reads through, I  mean listens to) it and does the activities such as; colouring, singing, and games.  That's a great start!!   But, to make it even better for me, I have a 9 year old who came home from school with a load of math homework he didn't want to do (he's just learning the multiplication table now) and a test score he was not overly happy with.  2 minutes later, I had a math ninja app on the go... if he wants to kill those evil robotic animals, he has to power up with multiplication questions first!  We'll see how this goes over this coming week.

     Yes, i guess its safe to say that I'm starting to come around.  I'm starting to see the merits of having a nice device like this around the house.  It's just too bad that I won't have the opportunity to take it student teaching with me and see what kind of applications it'll have in the classroom... (insert sad, guilt the ICT prof, kinda face here).  I wouldn't mind seeing what kind of online textbooks are available for it (if anybody is aware of a good free online text book, let me know).  I may not be rushing out to the store to buy one, but it's safe to say, I'm a lot more keen on watching what the future holds for the iPad...  It would look good in my briefcase though.......

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My Animoto Project & Praise To Dropbox

     So... here it is, my animoto video.

     This was an interesting project, and a lot of fun to use.  I really enjoyed how simplistic the animoto software was to use.  However, the true hero behind this project for me, was my friend dropbox!  As I sat in class, and all of the students were asked "did you remember to bring in the photos?"  It hit me.  I'm an idiot who didn't prepare any photos at all!  But, I somehow had enough sense to get on my cell phone, text my wife, tell her ask her to drop some photos from our home computer into dropbox, and WHAM!  My butt is saved, the assignment is completed, I look like a hero!

     For those of you who aren't familiar, I strongly urge you to check it out.  It's basically an online flash drive that you can access from any computer.  You can even share any folder of your choosing with one or more friends.  This can work out very conveniently when you have a group project to do, and google docs just ain't enough. 
     Dropbox even saved me from boredom when I was student teaching.  Was stuck at my pop's place for a month, nothing to do, no internet to access (yeah, I know... what is it?  the stone age?).  Luckily enough, the local McDonald's was a hot spot.  I got my wife to put a new movie in my folder once a week.  I probably would have gone nutz if not for that mental break.

But give it a shot... it could save your life someday too!

A Visit From George Couros

     On February 8, 2011, our class was priveleged enough to receive a visit from George Couros, a principal in Stony Plain Alberta.  He was able to take time out of his busy schedule to stop in and say hello to our classroom in Manitoba via Skype.  This method of contact with Mr. Couros was, simply put, all to appropriate.
     We were informed of how Mr. Couros likes to run his school by including large amounts of ICT.  Many of his students had access to laptops on a regular basis.  Many of his students communicated regularily on their blogs.  Social networking within his school was not looked down upon, but was rather encouraged.  We heard stories about his reaction to students getting around school safe guards, and stories about getting getting some good ICT minds to speak at his school.  There were plenty of good ideas shot around the room, such as identity days withing the school, and setting up alerts for becoming the first to hear if any new information about yourself was posted online.
     The session we had with Mr. Couros was a lot of fun, and very educational.  The only problem I had with this session was the realization at the end of it all...  that chances are I will not be teaching in a school that looks this openly on the internet and social networking.  Yes, I understand schools are moving in a positive direction to reach these levels, but most divisions I've worked with in the past are quite aways away. 
     I guess the silver lining I can take out of this is, at least there is evidence that some of our ICT goals are attainable.  Schools such as Mr. Couros' are essentially setting precedance, and making the fight for others a little easier.  When I do go out and find myself a job teaching.  If the school I'm at is not as technologically open as some examples I've seen.  I'll be keeping a close eye on schools such as Mr. Couros', and I will become a part of the fight for ICT. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

My Reintroduction To Facebook

     So, recently I welcomed myself back into the world of facebook.  I had an account, once upon a time, and was not overly in love with it.  I was getting bombarded with friend requests from people I barely knew, I was getting my "wall" (I didn't even know what the hell a "wall" was) absolutely filled with useless junk I didn't care about, I was getting my e-mail inbox flooded with updates, and I was gonna punch anyone I saw in person who kept inviting me to various groups or to answer a quiz about them.  To avoid this event from occurring, I simply walked away from facebook.

     My introduction back into facebook has been interesting thus far.  I see what is meant by facebook keeping everything!  I fired up my account in February of 2011, and as soon as I logged back in, it was as if I never left.  Every last post, picture and profile moment was sitting there as if I never left (my last post being some time in 2008).  Yup, facebook is just like herpes... that s**t stays with you forever.  Now I can definitely see why you've got to use extreme care and caution while using it.

     In the time since, I've had a chance to reconnect with 3 or 4 friends who I haven't talked to in a while.  Most notably a friend in Alberta and another in Korea.  As it stands yet, I'm not getting overly harassed with any games, groups, or other various invites.  I am still being cautious though.  It'll be interesting to explore the software and trying to find the various uses I can bring into my classroom.  It's only been a week and a half so far, but I'll try to keep all who follow my blog updated on my facebook adventures!!


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Does the internet make us dumber or smarter?

     Well, on our Faculty of Ed Ning, the question was posed; Is the internet making us smarter or dumber?  Followed up by two articles, each offering opposing views... here are the links:
Does the Internet Make You Dumber? by N. Carr
Does the Internet Make You Smarter? by C. Shirky
After reading both, I've come up with the following response:

     Wow... well, I "read" both articles to see what points were brought forth.  Does the internet make you dumber? brought forth several good points and had a handful of experiments/tests that were completed to reinforce the point.  The, Does the internet make you smarter? article was more full of oppinionated points.  And honestly, I got pretty confused/bored by this article and did a really half-a**ed job completing it.

     I can't really say that I agree with either.  I don't think people are any smarter or dumber due to the internet.  Sure the internet has brought an entire world of knowledge into our homes, but do people know how to use it correctly?  Do they know how to determine what is the truth and what is some bored individual throwing a bunch of gibberish together?  Sure the internet has brought forth a mountain of distractions, but wasn't the same said of TV when it was invented?

     People always had to determine how much information came out of a text book is actually true (Haeckel's embryos, Thomsons "plum pudding" molecular model, etc.).  People are always going to have distractions around (radio, TV, etc.). The bottom line is it comes down to the individual.  You can't blame the internet for making them dumb.  You can't thank the internet for making them a genius.   You made yourself the way you are.

                            (Then there's the whole genetics vs. upbringing argument I just won't get into)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Social Media in the Classroom

     Well, another week gone by in the education department.  Starting to find some motivation for this term, but it's still been the one of the tougher terms to get going in.  What can I say?  I'm just looking forward to getting out of the classroom and into the classroom.  Yup, that's my best shot at an education joke...  I could just hear the thud when that one hit the floor.  Oh well, I stand by it!

     On Tuesday's internet for educators class we were luck enough to have Mr. John Finch (MB Ed, LwICT) come and visit us once again.  We had a chance to discuss the uses of social networks in the classroom and to try and go out into the digital world to discover some examples to help us in our future teaching careers. 

     We came across our usual; youtube, teachertube, twitter, etc. examples.  Others found some more in depth websites that gave ideas on how to use the social network in the classroom.  I think that this could be a bit of work to get going, but it's a fantastic idea to communicate to the students in a way to which they are accustomed.  I like the idea that, as a teacher, I would only have to get the ball rolling.  The usefulness and upkeep can easily be completed by the students.  They could use this application to share ideas and answer each others questions.  Ideally, I would like my role to be only that of ensuring that any information shared on the network is in fact accurate.

     Of course, the irony has been discussed and will hopefully be addressed as time goes on.  How do you engage the students in this form of communication when a large group of the school divisions block out social networking sites?  Well, hopefully, as a new generation of teachers slowly and constantly enters the profession, I can easily forsee this question becoming one of the past.  As a teaching community, we just have to keep pushing on the positives of the program.  We'll break through!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Web Based Learning Site (Manitoba Education)

     In Thursday's class we were lucky enough to have Howard Griffith from Manitoba Education come into our class to discuss web based learning.  He gave us some insight into the website that was created to help students and teachers via web based learning.  We were led into a discussion about who can use the website, what the website is, where to find it, and why it was created. 

     Coming from personal experience, I was excited to get a few more ideas on how to implement these modules in the classroom.  I was first introduced to the blackboard program last year in my second student teaching placement.  I was informed how to logon for the demo mode, and had access to the basics while I was teaching a grade 11 chemistry course.

     It wasn't until my third placement (in MountainView School Division), that my cooperating teachers showed me just how easy it was to sign up and get full access to the modules present.  I got myself signed up for 3 more courses; grade 9 science, grade12 biology, and grade 12 chemistry.  While I had a fairly strong unit set up already for the grade 9 science, and therefore didn't use it much for this course, the grade 12 chemistry course became a very valuable resource. 

     The layout of the acids and bases unit was set up in an excellent manner.  There were plenty of assignments ready to go along the way, and the answer keys were all written out in a full step-by-step manner, which saved me a large amount of time.  All I had to do myself was splash in some personal preference changes, images, and labs.  The unit was pretty much ready to go from that point on.  I loved how the core ideas were solidly set up.  A strong foundation was laid out... I got the ability to spice it up to my liking.

     My use of the grade 12 biology unit did not work out the way I had liked unfortunately.  I had one student who was going to be out of town playing hockey for team Canada for 3 weeks.  I got him and myself all set up on the online unit.  I had envisioned how this student would be gone for 3 weeks, but wouldn't miss a step.  He'd come back to class and be ready to rejoin immediately...  Unfortunately, when he arrived at camp, the coach removed all cell phones, laptops, etc., from the team...     

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The First Week Of Internet Class

     Well, it was a good holiday spent doing nothing more than relaxing with the family.  My boys were both home with me for a couple of weeks while my wife was fully in charge of bringing home the bacon.  It's kinda hard to get back at it after a taste of that kind of lifestyle.  Going back to school was not one of the hilights of my 2011.
     The saving grace of my final term of school; I get to take an internet course with one of the best prof's at Brandon University.  Yes, I do like to suck up.  One of the key differences this time is that I'm telling the truth as well as sucking up : )

     Right off the bat, we were lucky enough to have a discussion with John Evans, a professional learning instructor with Manitoba education.  We had a chance to get introduced to a handful of web 2.0 programs that would be helpful and had a discussion on how these can be used in a digital teaching world.  Then we got to also take it another step further and looked at professional learning networks (PLNs).
     PLNs are essentially social websites for a group of people who would like to ask and solve questions on a given topic.  As a future educator I've found a couple of PLN sites that will definitely assist me with my teaching career.  Classroom 2.0 is an excellent example that has many science groups for me to join up with.  They even have those handy groups for assisting with ideas on how to use software (facebook, twitter, etc.) or hardware (smartboards, etc) effectively in the class.
     This was a good introductory week to this class and I definitely can't wait to see what the upcoming weeks are going to bring.