The Power of Twitter for Teacher Resources

 

With every passing day it becomes more and more of a no-brainer that it is in the best interest of one’s students, and the teacher, to embed technology within conventional instruction in education. What is less widely accepted is the incorporation of social media, and popular ones at that, into the lesson plans and homework assignments. The reasons for and against are numerous in both regards, but what cannot be argued is the power that social media has. Through social media, the average child has the ability to access more information at the push of a button than an encyclopedia could hold in one volume- a bit of an exaggeration, but you understand my point. There are valuable tools for teachers to utilize in their instruction that can be found on social media, and we should not be blind to this; as a future teacher, it will be my job to teach my students how to discern an appropriate source from an inappropriate one.

The first tweet that I would like to highlight is from @coolcatteacher. Thanks to her tweet I have now been exposed to something new today that I never expected to: Google for kids. Google Kiddle is a visual search engine, powered by editors and Google safe search. This quite possibly might be one of the most ingenious things I have ever seen in my life. Every teacher and parent can attest to a promotion of safe searches within schools; we do not want to limit the sources that our students have access to, but to put no restrictions on a search engine is risky in terms of inappropriate results. Through Google Kiddle, students are able to search freely on any topic of their choosing, and Google guarantees that the results are age appropriate- talk about worry and carefree for parents and teachers! Not only is it incredible that you are able to make an entire search engine age-appropriate, without compromising the integrity of the search results, but the complete layout of the page is different! Children are enticed by pictures, not long, descriptive phrases, and each search result is accompanied by an eye-grabbing picture- truly innovative for the classroom.

The next tweet is made possible thanks to @web20classroom. This tweet is linked to an article that describes four habits for people to take up in order to become more digitally creative. I was initially intrigued by this tweet because it talks about a topic that has a healthy amount of stigma associated, in my opinion. Many people believe that, thanks to technology, millennials especially are less creative, communicative, etc. I agree that the opportunity to have infinite amounts of information at your fingertips comes with adverse outcomes, such as a loss of innovative thinking and self-reliance on the surface, the opportunity to dive deeply into a specific topic or to explore an unknown content area does exist. The four pillars of this article are: capturing new ideas, engaging in challenging tasks, broadening knowledge, and interacting with stimulating people. Based on these tenants the author is able to explore and expand on ways to use digital software beyond their basic purposes- to think with out-of-the-box creativity. It is important to always be grounded by a combination of intuition and imagination, and this article outlines tips to help grow one’s digital creativity in ways that will only benefit students.

The final tweet that I chose to highlight is from @shannonmmiller. Her tweet links to a webpage that highlights the new Glowforge 3D laser printer. With the Glowforge laser printer, there are seemingly no limits to the things you are able to create. Just imagining the power to enhance classroom lessons that this printer has excites the future teacher in me. Lessons that only involved visualizing or conceptualizing a final product that was either created virtually or on paper can now be created in front of our student’s eyes. Under its 12 revolutionary features tab, one that is highlighted is that it is safe for schools: under the United States F.D.A. regulations, Glowforge Basic is categorized as a Class 1 laser, the same as a DVD player. No special precautions are required to use it, and if you are concerned that Glowforge Basic might not meet your curriculum needs, the Pro Model can be purchased too, but it is a class 4 laser requiring special precautions for operation. Could the future see no more woodshop courses, but 3D printing courses instead? It is hard to say for certain right now, but there seemingly is no limit for the number of applications that this printer could have in schools.

Overall, it is clear to me after another week of analyzing twitter’s impact on education, that I am becoming more exposed to beneficial resources that I never would have noticed had I not been paying attention. To blindly group all social media services as adverse to learning and inappropriate in a classroom setting seems foolish, as there are many invaluable services that you will only be able to experience if you are in tune with social media and the like. As Brian Solis once said, “Social Media is about sociology and psychology more than technology,” and likewise with David Alston who said that “Social media is not media. The key is to listen, engage, and build relationships.” I know that we are able to listen, engage, and build relationships through social media, meaning the stigma from society is unmerited at best.

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Digital Media: New Learners of the 21st Century

When thinking about the typical classroom, we picture a chalkboard, desks, a teacher in the middle of the classroom spelling out information and students diligently taking notes in order to regurgitate the information at some later point. This is not a classroom that is advantageous for the 21st century learner, plain and simple. In an ever evolving educational landscape, it is important to take a proactive role in trying to stay ahead of the curve. Through the integration of technology, and technology-based learning, we are giving our students the best chance to learn information that will actually still be pertinent five years from now.

In the video Digital Media: New Learners of the 21st Century, produced by PBS LearningMedia, five unique classroom and schooling environments are chronicled to show the positive, measurable, and lasting impact that integrating technology into curriculum has for students.

As the documentary description explains, this documentary explores how exceptional instructors are increasingly using digital media and interactive practices to ignite their students’ curiosity and ingenuity, help them become civically engaged, allow them to collaborate with peers worldwide, and empower them to direct their own learning. Students are receptive and knowledgable about the topics that they are learning about, but even more important is their excitement for learning each day.

The two specific instruction practices that intrigued me the most was the Smithsonian Institution and Middleton. Starting with the Smithsonian Institute, I found it incredibly interesting the way the teacher promoted the integration of the museum, visual literacy, and a game to make it fun. This teacher proves that it is possible to incorporate a game with a learning objective- in fact, without the game I doubt the information would have been as well received. The second classroom that intrigued me was the Middleton classroom, because it focused of place-based education, which incorporates the community into learning. Through place-based education students are able to ask thought provoking questions to community officials that will have the best answers, and they are able to make suggestions to powerful officials that will benefit the community as a whole, as well.

As a future special education teacher, I know that it will be my job to incorporate any multi-media or teaching technique in general that will benefit my students. Thinking outside of the box will be the beginning point for my teaching, because typical instruction does not reach my students as effectively. The success of technology-based instruction and place-baed education is not limited to the student’s I will be teaching; the same way UDL benefits both individuals with and without disabilities, so do these turn-of-the-century instruction models. Students that are able to see the immediate impact of their work, through place-based education, will be more inclined to be diligent with their work because they know that it has the chance to be implemented, as well as students will be more willing to go above and beyond if able to design fun games and activities to express the depth of their knowledge on a topic.

Technology-based instruction, and its proper implementation,has become a very prominent topic in education discussions. Below are some tweets from prominent social media presences on the topic of technology-based education, and their opinion on specific aspects of the conversation:

This first tweet is from @coolcatteacher, who links an article that describes the technology services she most often recommends in emails to people that email her after viewing her videos. The specific service she is recommending an instructional-video creating software, perfect for creating how-to videos or the like. Possible implementations of this technology include online classes, and also video projects that involve outlining a step-by-step process that must be followed for the desired outcome.

More important than integrating new technology for students into one’s instruction, is the ability to be fluent in using the old technology that we take for granted. Google docs is one of these “old technologies,” but it has value far beyond its original context. As @shannonmmiller illustrates, thee are things that every teacher should know how to do when using Google Docs, stretching far past what most people know. These “hacks” as she calls them will only streamline the efficiency of one’s teaching.

Often times, when thinking about integrating technology and education, we think about services that cater to education formats almost exclusively. In a tweet @web20classroom discusses the importance of incorporating social media apps and services in the classroom, and other technologies that were not created exclusively for education. Students are familiar with these technologies and they will be able to navigate them with ease, making the connections to the actual lesson more applicable and technology error less likely.

In total, it is clear that the typical classroom of the past is advantageous for a 21st century learner. The educational landscape is one that is dynamic, and thus it is important to take a proactive role in trying to stay ahead of the curve. Through the integration of technology, and through technology-based learning and place-based learning, we are giving our students the best chance to learn information that will  be pertinent five years from now.

 

 

 

Personal Experiences with Orthographic Development

Through schooling, we have been conditioned to look for perfection within spelling; we have even created monikers to assist this philosophy: always use spell-check before turning in an essay, I before E except after C, etc. With all of the attention put toward spelling, it would appear that it is a majorly important component of learning, and that it somehow increases one’s phonological awareness. As we discovered through our in-class discussions this week though, promoting perfect spelling does not increase one’s phonological awareness. In fact, I argue that it confuses students as to what their main objective should be.

From our earliest days as students, spelling was always taught the same way every week: successive lessons with little deviation. Each Monday we would start with a spelling test, and each Friday we would be re-tested on the same words to track our improvement. For those that are able to reflect on these times and say that they enjoyed spelling tests, it typically correlates with the fact that they received good scores. And adversely speaking, for those that did not enjoy their spelling test days, it typically relates to the fact that they received poor scores. Students were labeled week after week as either a good or bad speller, and their spelling homework for the week would be contingent on how well they did on their Monday test.

It is important to remember that phonological awareness is defined as a persons awareness of the sound structure of words. Research shows us that early phonological awareness is an important and reliable predictor of later reading ability, and thus, the most effective method for reaching students is a highly debated topic.

In today’s educational system, the testing of spelling is standard across most education formats; there has even been a movie, Akeelah and the Bee, about Spelling Bees and ESPN annually chronicles the national spelling bee on its main network. Clearly there is a dynamic in place that promotes perfect spelling, and we revere those that are able to do this. Overall, our group concluded that spelling tests were not the most efficient method for promoting phonological awareness in our early schooling days. While there was much repetition, there was no actual learning of the meaning of words; spelling patterns and rules were discovered, but through the practice of copying words week after week, true phonological awareness was never truly initiated.

As future teachers, it is imperative to establish phonological awareness in young students so that they can continue to mature along the continuum as they go through schooling. We have established that spelling tests alone are not adequate to initiate this, so the question remains: what is the best way to establish solid phonological awareness for our young students?

-Seth, Emily, Morgan, Elizabeth

 

The World Needs All Kinds of Minds

 

Temple Grandin is a professor of animal science at Colorado State University, a best selling author, and a world-renowned consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior. Even more mentionable than all of her accomplishments though, in my opinion, is her connection to autism activism. In 1951, at the age of four, Temple was diagnosed with Autism caused by brain damage. She spent her early schooling days at a structured nursery school where she was given instructed speech therapy. Through rigorous speech instruction she developed spoken language at the age of three and a half, and credits elementary school mentor for their support in her early year and onward. 

My first interaction with Temple Grandin was during my senior year of high school, in my AP Environmental Science class. The topic was the current animal slaughter process, and how environmentally inefficient the system is, when my teacher showed us a video clip of Temple Grandin explaining her innovative slaughtering process. 

 

Temple, an individual with autism, spent much of her schooling years feeling threatened by everything in her surroundings and dismissed. Through her experiences accommodating these feelings, she has been able to find a parallel to how she believes animals feel before they are slaughtered. By altering her patented “hug box,” a device intended to calm those who have autism spectrum disorder, she has been able to combine her activism for people with autism and animal welfare. Overtime she studied the behaviors of cattle, how they react to ranchers, movements, objects, and light. Her altered device is intended to reduce the stress, panic and injury toward animals as they are being led to slaughter, which all adversely affect the quality of the meat, if not monitored. 

Two years later it seems even more fitting that I am looking to Temple Grandin for inspiration. A graduate of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Animal Sciences doctoral program in 1989, she spoke at a TED talk in 2010 about the importance of the world having a diverse wealth of different types of minds.

 

As it relates to our class discussions, catering to the minds of children with autism will only advance our society. Universal Design in Teaching mandates that level the playing field so that all students are able to succeed, and through research it is clear that not all brains function the same way, but we are capable of reaching most children if we take the time to accommodate them just by making simple changes. 

As a future teacher, I must understand, to the best of my ability, how to engage students that may think differently than I do. It is imperative that these unique qualities are seen as possible advantages, and not disadvantages, because society’s opinion of people with disabilities is horribly skewed. Grandin references multiple times the possible impact that people on the autism spectrum have to offer companies in Silicon Valley, but these possibilities will never be imagined if we do not provide the children with the opportunity to develop the skills necessary. 

At the end of the day, the world needs all kinds of minds. After watching Temple Grandin’s TED talk, I wonder if we are teaching in a way that allows for creativity and individualized thinking, or if we are teaching to a mass of children that can be successful but closing off the teaching to students that it does not reach? Who am I to decide what describes success? It is important to me that all children are given equal opportunity, and for all students to be given the opportunity to discover their talents; the world needs all kinds of minds. 

 

Teaching to the Millennials, and beyond

When thinking about teaching students in today’s world, the list of demands is ever increasing. Not only are we teaching to a population that has the capabilities of experiencing more in a virtual reality than they have to experience in the real world on a daily basis, but we are also teaching to a population that will hold jobs that we cannot even fathom will exist within the next fifteen to twenty years (see the link http://teachingandlearninginhighered.org/2013/07/15/preparing-students-for-what-we-cant-prepare-them-for/ for more information). As one can clearly see, if school were to be analogized as a playing field, it would be one that is inherently unfair; from the beginning of schooling, teachers are forced to teach information using strategies that may, to no fault of their own but simply due to how quickly society changes, be antiquated in terms of its effectiveness reaching students. It is for this reason, as well as many others, that it is NOT okay to give teachers the option as to whether or not they wish to incorporate modern technologies into their instruction. 

Across history, there are many examples of things that we take for granted in modern society, but initially faced a lot of pushback-the same way technology incorporation in education has. Things such as the internet, television, and the willingness to move VCR to DVD, were all seen as unnecessary when they were first introduced; what all of these things have in common, is that today these things are commonplace, the same way technology in education will one day be commonplace. While all of these examples have positively benefitted society’s progress, in my opinion, none of these things have had as direct an impact on the education of children like technology in classrooms does, and so none of them carried as much weight or urgency as technology incorporation does. Every time we blatantly choose to forgo technology incorporation when it could be beneficial, simply due to personal agendas or a lack of understanding, we are adversely affecting our students’ educations. It is wrong to let things such a personal feelings on the importance of technology or a simple lack of knowledge on how to affectively utilize the technology impact the decision on whether to incorporate it or not. 

In my Intro to Education Technology course we watched a quick video that outlines exactly what kind of challenges teachers in today’s world face, and the unlimited possibilities that the Internet possesses. Here’s another video that illustrates this major point: 

Another reason why the incorporation of technology into education should be mandated and not optional is because we need to embrace the opportunity to expand teaching possibilities parallel to the expansion of technology. To embrace a fast-paced movement like the one that is technology incorporation in education allows for education to be in the forefront of innovative technology discoveries, with a stake in which kinds of decisions are made and to whom it will benefit. To embrace technology incorporation in the classroom is to invest in the future of technology, and investing in technology yields large rewards in the long run far beyond the financial sector. Below is a video that asks the questions we should be asking ourselves right now as aspiring teachers, and thinks about how to incorporate modern technologies to help answer them: 

In total, it is clear that given the realities of our modern age and the demands of our children’s future, it is not ok to allow teachers to choose whether or not they incorporate modern technologies into their instruction, but rather it should be mandated wherever possible. From my own personal experiences in school, technology incorporation has created many originally unforeseen benefits, along with the aforementioned ones. For example, due to my high school requiring that all students have a school-issued iPad, many student-lead positions were created to teach students, and occasionally teachers, how to effectively use the technology. Moreover, they taught the little-known ways to use technology to benefit each student, different from ways commonly focused upon. Second to that, the widespread movement away from textbooks to e-books has decreased our paper dependence and carbon footprint, which is always beneficial. 

Overall, it is clear to me that in the modern age it takes modern technologies to reach students efficiently. Incorporation must be mandated, but more importantly embraced by all parties involved.