Wednesday, April 20, 2011

TED Video

My brother is always on top of the newest of new of the internet since its part of his job to stay current as a graphic designer.  He often sends my mom and I anything he finds interesting about education because he knows that I'm about to be certified to teach and my mom is a secretary in an elementary school.  This morning he sent me this video that he came across.  This TED video was a lecture by Salman Khan.  Honestly I've never heard of him before, but the video definitely interested me in finding out more about him.  His ideas about education are definitely interesting and worth a listen to. Check it out TED: Salman Khan: Let's Use Video to Reinvent Education

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Experiencing Technical Difficulties

Hello everyone!  I hope everyone is having a great week despite this gloomy weather.  While many people have been complaining about the rain, to me it just serves as a reminder that the flowers will be in full bloom soon as will spring! (*Note: This post was written yesterday, but wasn't posted until today when it is in fact beautiful and sunny out)

For this week’s post I was experiencing some major…and I mean MAJOR writer’s block.  It has been a pretty hectic week for me and well my brain is fried between assignments, my job in retail, and searching for teaching positions online.  I really try not to do things at the last minute, especially assignments, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to the fact that I can be a huge procrastinator.  While taking two online courses this semester I’ve come to the realization that procrastination and technology do not mix.  This is where my blog post title comes into play, because I have been experiencing technical difficulties with technology all day long!  Then it hit me, I’ve had many experiences with technical difficulties so instead of getting frustrated I’ve chosen to write about them and how despite these difficulties I still think that technology is a great tool both recreationally and educationally.

Example 1:  In the midst of a very hectic week this semester with both extra hours at work due to an employee quitting and a major assignment due in one of my online courses I make the decision to leave my online postings as the last item on my list to complete.  Thus I begin completing 2 postings for different classes at 8 or 9pm on the day that they are due.  Posting number one is completed, time to move on to the second.  Second post is all written up, I click said and my computer screen reads “computer unable to connect to server”.  Luckily for me I write many of my postings in Microsoft Word first because I know how easily posts can be erased by refreshing the internet and this is indeed what happens when I refresh my browser to see if that will solve my connection problem.  It continues to tell me that I cannot connect to the server.  I proceed to check every 15 minutes for the next two hours so that I can hopefully hand in my assignment on time.  No such luck, my server did not restore itself until some point between when I went to bed at 12:15am and when I wake up at 8am the next morning and my assignment is handed in late.

While I really should’ve learned from my mistake of procrastinating, I’ve done this one more time over the semester and had similar results.  While I’d like to blame my server for crashing, I know that ultimately it was my fault for waiting until the night that the assignment was due to complete it.  What it also makes me realize is that when I assign online assignments for my students that this is type of occurrence is a possibility especially if it is a homework assignment due in one evening.  What I really need to pay attention to is if this is a student’s excuse time after time.  I know that many teachers are beginning say that “my computer crashed” or “my printer broke” is becoming the new “dog ate my homework” for both Gen Yers and Gen Zers, but at the same time these are actual difficulties that students may experience.

Example 2:  I had a group assignment in my other online course and had been doing the work for it on my personal laptop.  I had been experiencing issues with my computer’s charger for a while but was trying to put off buying a new charger as much as possible.  Well right before I began working on the project the charger issue had gotten worse and a smart tech-savvy person would have started to back up all of their documents onto an external hard drive.  As luck had it not only did my charger go caput but so did my computer battery and the computer itself.  Luckily for me I was able to get the computer to turn on long enough to not only move all of my work to my external hard drive but also all of my new images and other documents that I had not recently backed up. 

The stress alone made me realize that it is so important to deal with any technical difficulties before the problems get any worse because the worse case scenario can be really bad.  Also it is important to have a back up.  Luckily for me, my boyfriend let me use his laptop to complete the rest of my project.  Even as educators it is important to have a back up incase technology breaks down or we can’t get something to work in the classroom.

Despite my experiences with technology that are truly frustrating, technology is such an important tool and it is important to not let bad experiences with it keep you from trying again.  As many of us tell our students, you can’t give up when presented with challenges, it is important to keep trying and overcome them.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Technology and Urban Schools

Recently for my Urban Education course I (with my class) went to Perth Amboy High School to observe teachers and the different teaching styles of educators in urban schools.  One of the biggest points my professor made was that you cannot make judgments off of one observation.  I agree with this because everyone has their bad days, but my experience in this classroom was enough to show me that education in urban schools is very different from that of suburban schools.  One difference that made me think of this course was the amount of technology available in this school.  In the math classroom that I observed there was no technology other than the computer that the teacher had on his desk and a very old projector.  This man who taught the class that I observed seemed to teach directly out of the book and to be honest was very hard to follow.  I couldn't imagine being a student in this classroom other than from watching students in this class it seemed that if I was a student in this classroom I'd be bored and thinking of other things.

From observing the rest of the school it looked like there really wasn't much technology throughout the rest of the school either.  I doubt many of the students here had the opportunity to use a computer lab or other types of technology even as little as once a month.  In a school that has 900 more students than it was build to hold, there are very rarely any classrooms that are empty, in fact we had a very hard time finding a place to come back together as a class after we had all done our observations, administrators wanted to hold a class in the room with us.

The whole situation really makes me think about how some of the technologies we talk about in this classroom are harder to use and implement than others in urban areas.  While teachers can apply for grants to obtain technology in schools, what else can we do to help schools in urban areas get resources that so many other schools and districts take for granted?  How do we justify getting these students technology when there are so many other things they may be in need of?  Also, in urban areas many students do not have easy access to computers at home so how can we make things like classroom wikis and blogs more accessible to all students?  I also find myself wondering if there are any resources available to teachers in urban schools to help them learn how to implement forms of technology into their classrooms (other than personal development workshops) when there are very few resources available to them.

These are just a few of the questions I had about technology and urban schools that I plan on investigating more thoroughly.  While I do see it being difficult to get technology into these classrooms I think that they can benefit so much from the enhancing capabilities of all different forms of technology.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Digital Textbooks and The Kno

Last time I posted I talked about how my other online course has students doing PowerPoint Presentations on different technological tools that can be helpful in the general and inclusive classrooms.  For my presentation I decided to research digital textbooks.  As someone who would love to own an iPad or Nook I always wonder what the education implications would be if we brought them into the classroom.  I've heard rumors here and there about colleges that are beginning to include iPads in the cost of tuition and making all of their textbooks digital but I have yet to personally see this in action.  I also read about Governor Scharwzenegger's Digital Textbook Initiative where he is trying to get paper-based books out of the classroom and digital in instead in order to solve California State's budget crisis.  There is a great article here about how the initiative is currently doing in some classrooms.

After doing the research about digital textbooks it seems as if the capability of digital textbooks to be interactive depends on not only the textbook but the reader one chooses to view the textbook on.  A digital textbook may include links to podcasts, blogs, games and other exciting resources but if the eReader doesn't have internet capabilities then those all go to waste.  The opposite is also true, if the eReader has internet or typing capabilities, but the digital textbook is exactly the same as the classroom paper-based textbook with no additional resources then it makes it more difficult to really interact with your digital textbook.

Here are what I found to be the pros and cons of digital textbooks:

  -Text-to-speech programs allow students to listen to the text as they read along
  -Features that allow for personalization such as text size, reading speed (of text-to-speech programs)
  -Students can take notes and use highlighter features right on the digital textbook, almost makes a paper-based notebook unnecessary
  -Cheaper than regular textbooks usually by between 30% & 50%
  -Students no longer have to lug backpacks full of books around. 
  -Some readers for digital textbooks can instantly get students connected to the internet to work with enhancing resources.
  -They are searchable.  Instead of using a glossary or table of content students can type what they are looking for into a search box it will automatically take them to the pages that the particular topic appears on.

  -Requires students to have computer and internet access at home or to own some sort of eReader.
  -Could widen the gaps between the poor and rich because wealthier districts can afford to purchase their students eReaders while poorer districts may not and thus they are not getting the same educational opportunities.
  -Can be more expensive in the long run because digital textbooks require some form of technology to read them.
  -Not all digital textbooks have interactive abilities.
  -They can be written in different electronic formats making a book impossible to read on certain eReaders.
 -More straining on one’s eyes and students may tire quicker reading their digital textbooks.
 -eReaders and computers require you to monitor their battery levels.  If your reader dies half way through class you no longer have your textbook to use.
 -Not all textbooks are available in digital form yet

Overall, I think that digital textbooks are a great idea but that we shouldn't get rid of paper-based books all together.  While I love the idea of a book that is interactive with instant dictionaries, notepads, and links, I love flipping through the pages of a real book or being able to show some one the chunk of a book that I read in one sitting.  You can't get the same feeling with digital books.  I have to say as well that I think digital textbooks would not be my top priority to get into the classroom for a little while longer until, hopefully, more books are available in digital form and they are available in more universal formats so that one textbook can be read on any type of reader.  However, I do see the really great potential of using interactive digital textbooks in the classroom.

Most of us have heard about the iPad, Nook, or Kindle, but how many of us have heard about "The Kno."  This is an eReader made with educators and students specifically in mind.  It is extremely interactive allowing students to take notes and highlight their books as well as have their book and a notepad open at the same time.  I've found some great YouTube videos here and here that are really informative as well as some videos that really demonstrate its capabilities here and the official video for it here (I really recommend this one!).  The Kno is currently unavailable to individuals looking to purchase them so that the company can first reach out to educators and students and be able to document their experiences with it, but hopefully as the one video states that they'll be available for purchase soon.  Also the Kno comes in two formats, one that looks more like a regular textbook with two tables and the other that is more newly developed is just one tablet, like the iPad.  After watching the video and reading up on the Kno I think that this type of reader is really what makes me want to use digital textbooks in the classroom because this allows for endless possibilities in the textbooks' interactivity with the user.  I really recommend checking it out for yourself and deciding what you think about the Kno and whether you'd like to see it used in your own classroom!

If you are interested in reading any of the articles I found on digital textbooks or the Kno please don't hesitate to ask, I didn't post all of them here because I didn't want my entire post to be swarming with links.

Have a great Tuesday everyone!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Virtual Field Trips

Hello everyone!  Hope you had a lovely Valentine's Day!

Recently in my other online course, Inclusive Teaching in Education, we've been making, watching and commenting on PowerPoint presentations that members of the class have been making.  The assignment is to make a PowerPoint presentation with a vocal recording attached that presents some sort of technological-based support that could help students with disabilities.  So far there has been a great array of presentations: TI-Nspire technology, OCR reading pens, DynaVox Vmax+, Elmo Cameras, FrontRow, Promethean Boards, SmartBoards (which I'll probably discuss my love for at a later date), Virtual Field Trips, and Weblogs.  The item that I really want to discuss today is the Virtual Field Trip.

I'd be lying if I said I'd never heard of Virtual Field Trips or Virtual Scavenger Hunts before.  In middle and high school I completed many Virtual Scavenger Hunts and to be honest I often felt as if they were busy work.  As an educator I do see their potential to be used in the classroom, but I feel that they need to be incorporated and further used in the classroom in order for students to see the importance of them.  I feel the same way about incorporating Virtual Field Trips in the classroom, however, I see more potential in their use than in the use of Scavenger hunts.

One of the Virtual Field Trips that the presenter recommended checking out was The Google Art Project.  Have you ever wanted to go to the MoMa in New York City or the Uffizi Gallery in Florence?  This website allows you to view artwork in 17 different Art Museums throughout the world.  The website allows you to zoom in so close on the artwork that you feel as if you can see the layers of paint on canvas or that you could touch the paint through your computer screen.  As an Art History minor who would love to travel to these locations I'm in heaven being able to truly experience these pieces of artwork (at least until I have the money to perhaps travel to their locations one day) better than any textbook could ever allow me to.  While this website may not fit into everyone's curriculum or subject matter I definitely see its potential in the classroom.

Another great Virtual Field Trip that I remember using in middle school was one about the Underground Railroad.  While I can't remember the website that we used in particular in my Social Studies class, I found another resource that you could use:  Virtual Field Trip: Underground Railroad.  This site is not as impressive visually as the Google Art Project, but is essentially a historical walking tour of sites important to the Underground Railroad in New Bedford, MA.  It provides students to experience and learn about a site they may otherwise be unable to visit.

Other interesting sites that are home to Virtual Field Trips/Tours are the American Museum of Natural History which allows students to visit the animal dioramas within the museum,  The Mars Project which allows students to explore the surface of Mars, and Scholastic: Field Trips which provide Math, Science, Social Studies and Reading/Language Arts trips.

While I understand that there are some obstacles one might have to overcome in order to use Virtual Field Trips such as having the technology in the classroom, I think that the benefits really outweigh any cons.  Teachers can apply for grants to help provide them with computers or SmartBoards in the classroom.  I think that doing Virtual Field Trips on a SmartBoard with the entire class would be such a great way to bring the class together to learn about a particular topic.  I also think that Virtual Field Trips function well as independent or small group activities.  Also, these types of field trips would be extremely beneficial for school districts that cannot afford to send their students on real field trips or that do not have local areas appropriate for field trips.

I hope I didn't overwhelm everyone with my information on Virtual Field Trips, but I really think that they are a great educational tool that I hope to use in my future classroom!

For additional websites that provide lists of links for different Virtual Field Trips try The Teacher's Guide: Virtual Tours, Internet4Classrooms: Virtual Field Trips Collection, SimpleK12: Virtual Field Trips, or even just do a Google search of Virtual Field Trips and explore the endless possibilities on your own.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Hello and welcome to my new blog!

I just wanted to take the time to introduce myself and my blog before diving into posting here.

My name is Ms. Thompson and I am a student at Rutgers Graduate School of Education.  I'm currently in my last semester of my teacher education program and can't wait to enter the field of teaching!  When I begin teaching I will be qualified to teach K-8 with a specialization in Mathematics for grades 6-8.  I student taught in 2nd and 6th grade and my experiences in both were so fantastic that I'm having a hard time deciding which area (elementary or middle school) I would rather teach in.

Currently I live in an apartment with my boyfriend of four years and two other roommates, one of which is also in the education program at Rutgers.  My GSE roommate and I often find ourselves discussing topics from class and our experiences in teaching at our apartment.  It has been a great resource to have someone to talk to about education who understands what I'm talking about when I talk about things like differentiating lessons or cooperative learning experiences.

This blog is not my first experience in the blogging world.  I also write another blog (however I do not write as often as I should) about my experiences with my other loves: cooking, traveling, knitting, and the occasional story about my experience in education.  I also frequently use to blog more about imagery that I like or am interested in.  This will, however, be my first blog entirely dedicated to education.  I haven't quite decided the route that I would like to take with this blog but be on the look out for my takes on educational methods, technology used in the classroom,  personal anecdotes, and links to some of my favorite educational websites.

Please feel free to leave comments and suggestions, they are always welcome!  Also, before you leave please take the polls at the bottom of my blog to let me know how I can better improve my site.

Thanks and welcome again!