Tuesday, September 30, 2014

ORMS MOOC Module 1 Reflection

I was one of three facilitators for the first module of the ORMS MOOC. I had not gone first before. The good: you set the pace and nobody has expectations. The bad: if you're like me, you are the one with the expectations.

It is strange having folks from the new cohort ask me questions, expecting expert answers. I don't feel like an expert, but I found myself answering with authority. After negotiations, we spread the commenting and questioning responsibilities among us and connected during the week through email and brief hangouts.

I learned so much from the MOOC participants. I always pick up certain things from readings, and I am  amazed at what others connect and discover. We read through different lenses. We come from a variety backgrounds and teach different school populations and grade levels. I like being able to respond on my own time, but it would be really fun to connect face-to-face on some of these issues.

I was particularly impressed with the online tutorials. I recognize that there are so many types of technology that can be used in a pedagogically aligned manner. I still find myself in the "use the technology" mindset, rather than the "can technology make this better?" mindset. Operative word: MINDSET.

After spending a solid week at school resetting student passwords, working around glitches in the website, and figuring out how to get by without my Polyvision board (or a working LCD projector) -- can my SLO be about resetting LESS passwords?  -- learning from my ITDML colleagues about ways that technology is successfully being used in their schools is inspiring.

Start a blog: reflections about digital identity

"Start a blog."
"Start a blog. Use Wordpress or something."
"You're brilliant, well-read, and make amazing connections. Besides, it will give you something to do."

That was the beginning my husband's and my dinner conversation after I read about digital identity this afternoon. I always read the ITDML articles with a lens of "teacher" and "student." It hit me at dinner that blogging is much broader than that.

You see, my husband was an amazing teacher.  Teaching was his second career. He was passionate, practical, and wielded differentiated instruction like a magic wand. Due to school system climate and an unfortunate choice of actions on his part, his career ended after four short years. I won't explain. It's his story.

Anyway, he worked hourly jobs and mourned the loss of his career before cancer struck three summers ago. He now has a clean bill of health, and no job. It's a struggle for both of us. He helps out at a friend's business occasionally, and spends most of his time applying for jobs online, reading non-fiction (mostly history), and cruising social media. Whenever he "teaches" at Men's Fellowship, they hang on his every word. I "Googled" him and found his Facebook page and an article about his termination. He is more than that.

Creating a digital identity is so much more than killing time posting/boasting about yourself. By creating a digital identity, you can rewrite your story, or overwhelm some of the things you are less proud of.

I have been following Kathy Schrock on and off for years. Twenty years ago, my library director (I was Children's Librarian in Huntington CT) gushed about her. Kathy Schrock was a school librarian on the cutting edge of technology back in the early nineties. She overwhelmed me. Before it was common to have an online presence, she was out there. She has since retired from her library media specialist job, is self-employed, and bills herself as an "Educational Technologist." She presents at conferences, holds workshops, works with schools, and maintains an exciting, informative website. I have seen her. She draws huge crowds. Kathy learned new things and promoted her learning. She is a strong role model for creating a digital identity. Maybe she has grandchildren and posts on Instagram, but her top five Google hits are about Education Technology.

My top five hits (that are ME, not some NY financial director or high school basketball player) are Facebook, Twitter, church (the online version of our newsletter), and Google+. I have some work to do...

PS: My husband is starting to think of a name for his blog! So far, everything he thought of was taken. :)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A new world order: reflections on this week's readings

To those who yearn for "standards," such differences appear as evidence of distressing fragmentation of the social fabric (Cazden.)

I am going to date myself. I was born in 1964, months after John F. Kennedy was shot. My whole childhood was defined by the Cold War. I remember looking at photos from Vietnam in Time Magazine and watching 10-year-old footage of people running through barbed wire after the Berlin wall went up.
Modern technology in the classroom was a filmstrip projector. My age-mates still talk about the smell of the mimeograph machine, the copier's predecessor. If we saw moving pictures in the classroom, they came from an old fashioned movie projector, not a VCR.

I remember learning "basic" on the networked computers in high school. I created an endless loop that said, "My sister is a jerk." Yes, coding at its finest. My father was a math teacher, and we had access to a home computer long before most of my peers. It wasn't all that exciting. I could type and I could do simple programming. Whoopee.
The world has changed.
Kids are coding games. Anybody can "chat" with people around the world in real time. We can get almost any information we want instantaneously.... most of it for free. If we think of something we want to buy, we can hunt it down and purchase it without leaving our homes. In a moment of carelessness, we can lose our life savings.
I am so dependent on my connection and at the same time I hate it.
I can find out the weather or the time or the state of the world in an instant.
The flip side of that is that I have no time.
I have a busy mind and I love to know stuff. I spend way too many hours exploring the back-lit box at my fingertips. I hardly read anymore. I spend much less time sewing. I waste hour after hour playing solitaire or checking Facebook.

I am taking this sixth year program because I am recognizing my obsolescence. I understand technology. I use technology. I don't really embrace technology.
The New London Group's article, A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures, has me rattled.What is education for? I always imagined it was to give everyone a baseline - equal footing - in order to be productive, functioning citizens. We all learn to read and do basic mathematics, learn about human history and interaction, and get a grasp on our world through science. Those who get excited about certain topics learn more about them, and those who just want to get out into the world and work, have that opportunity.
Apparently, that is "Ford-ian" thinking, good for an industrial society.
...and we are beyond that.
Since the end of the Cold War, our society become much more money-driven. The new focus is the bottom line. We are working to teach students teamwork because the hierarchical nature of business has changed, but our corporate culture is downright "nightmarish" (Cazden.) Instead of learning to be cogs in a wheel, our students need to learn how to "speak up, negotiate, and engage in critical thinking." Not everyone is built for that kind of interaction. Where can they fit in? Is that honoring their kind of diversity? Or do we now cater to the loudest divergences?

 The new order "spells the definitive end of "the public"- that homogeneous imagined community of modern democratic nation states."(Cazden) Am I ready? Can I help my students be ready?

(Can the politicians call us "The American People" like we are all the same...?)

Cazden, C. Cope, B. Fariclough, N. Gee, J. et al. A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures.  Harvard Educational Review; Spring 1996; 66, 1; ProQuest Psychology Journals. pg. 60

Saturday, September 13, 2014

EDUC 7720 Humble Hub Beginnings

I started a Google Site at school. It took a very long time! I'm not so sure that I want to use it as my Digital Learning Hub after all. I'm starting to think I want to keep some of the technology and the more mundane school things separate. I tend to think of my learning hub as MY resource, and the school website as a STUDENT resource.
Here is my future Abbott Tech Library site:

The site is incomplete. I published it so you could look at it. (It's still a secret...)
In Google Sites:
-It was really easy to find a template I liked.
-It was especially annoying trying to get my pictures small enough to use on the site. I could have put up my nose...only... but that's not even humorous! I know I'll have to adjust the pixels in the future. I'll just leave it at that because I only have the vaguest clue what I'm talking about...
-Site navigation is pretty easy/standard for a user.
-Editing is a bit tricky. Once I got the hang of it, it was the same for every section. 
- I may have picked too many time-intensive sections as far as currency/updating goes.
- I would like to have used more "gadgets," but our school system has limited access to some things...
- I have not yet figured out how to do "buttons." I would prefer buttons for the Destiny catalog and the AR link.
- I don't like the lettering at the top of the page. There wasn't an easy way to change it. I'm not sure if I can.
- I thought I had replaced the calendar. It didn't work. It was cumbersome to manipulate. I'm weighing whether or not to post library reservations online.

On a VERY happy note, I had some time to play with the site at school because administration made "library" a DUTY for teachers! Instead of being the only person to answer the phone, shelve books, laminate, make copies, answer the phone, check books out, troubleshoot technology, answer the phone, and answer the phone, SOMEONE ELSE CAN NOW ANSWER THE PHONE! The teachers prefer "library duty" to study hall or lunch duty, so it's a total win-win situation. I finally got to troubleshoot the iPads that have been frustrating me for 8 solid months. They now update automatically! I can also market library resources and suggest collaboration to my now-captive audience.

ED 7720 My Idol

Our assignment this week was to search online for some exemplars of a Learning Hub.  We were to identify an exemplar and indicate why we selected the site.

I looked at a variety of websites for teachers and by teachers this week.
I googled "exemplary teacher websites." It found sites FOR teachers.
I googled "Google teacher website examples." In the Google Sites Examples link, there were two sites that were somewhat acceptable. I'm somewhat picky.
Under "teacher website examples," one of the links took me to some HS teacher sites. I don't want music to play when someone opens my site!

I don't like busy sites. A color theme is good, but not too many colors.
I like tabs at the top and links that are easy and descriptive.
I like a navigation bar down the side.
I like select graphics, none too overwhelming. A big background picture might work.

I am drawn to Kathy Schrock's Guide to Everything. Kathy is a former Library Media Specialist who, after many years of being a technology leader in her school, district, and the library profession, has become an "Educational Technologist." She consults. Her website includes:
- Blog
- A link to her consulting business
- iPads for Teaching, resources for iPads in education
- PD offerings
- At the bottom (bottom half, actually) of the page main , there is an ALPHABETICAL listing of links to great pages/resources Kathy has compiled about technology use in schools. There are also password protected links to her workshop materials.
The site is easy to navigate. Even though some links are redundant, it is easy to find what you are looking for quickly, be it a resource or a reason to hire her.

Kathy Schrock's Guide to Everything

I could learn a lot from just this site. It was the first thing I put in Pearltees.  I saw her sites when she was a (mere) school librarian, and they were a bit busier... and cartoon-y.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

ED 7720 Questioning New Literacies

For this week's readings, we were asked to read
- Coiro, Knobel, Lankshear, and Leu. Central Issues in New Literacies and New Literacy Research.(2008)
- Lankshear and Knobel. Researching Literacies: Web 2.0 Practices and Insider Perspectives. (2007)

Like a good student, I read the readings and took notes - on paper, of course. Thoughts kept popping into my head as I read about the skills required to navigate the 21st Century Literacies, especially the Lankshear article.
"Is understanding what you watch on TV a literacy?"
"Can you fully experience the internet without print literacy?

As teachers added filmstrips, overhead projectors, and VCR's to their classroom repertoir, did they talk about literacies? The kinds of things teachers could project on an overhead were much different than figures on a chalkboard. Watching video clips provided a whole different experience than reading the information in a book. 

Did the talk of new literacies start with the internet? or are we just doing the same things in a flashier package? Are we adapting popular culture to hold students' attention in the classroom? Yes, the world is internet savvy. Businesses expect new employees to be prepared for the world of work, but are we giving all of our students enough of "the basics?" It is frustrating to encounter ninth graders who can't use a ruler. Did creating a SimCity make ruler technology obsolete?

I understand that the Web 1.0 skills are using the internet as a heirarchical way to disseminate information and Web 2.0 tools involve collaboration and building group knowledge. (Lankshear),
So does debate.
So does a discussion.
Debate and discussion require face-to-face ettiquette.
The new literacies involve person-to-person collaboration with the addition of the connectivity of the Internet. This teamwork can happen anywhere in the world. It is interesting. It can be engaging. Is it really all that different? Is it as meaningful as collaborating with someone you can eat lunch with or play ball with after school? On the internet, we may be engaging with classmates, or age-mates in another part of the world, but there is an electronic barrier of potential anonymity.

Would someone without basic print literacy be able to successfully navigate a computer/device other than the most basic visual prompts? Could they attain any REAL literacy on an internet-capable device? If not, is basic button pushing a "literacy?" Looking at it this way, it is easy to see why policy-makers focus on basic print literacy (Coiro et al) and not expensive new technologies. Without the building blocks of basic print literacy and numeracy, discerning credibility of websites and game coding make no sense.

Am I overthinking this?

* Photo CC licensed by Nevit Dilmen.

ED 7720 Thoughts about my Learning Hub

For many years, teachers in our system have been encouraged to maintain a website for the convenience of students and parents. Due to our network "complications" we have been encouraged to use certain websites and then banned from those same site providers in subsequent years. I have maintained a single-page, serviceable site on our School-run website. Please do not seek it out. It's embarrassing. It includes links to the Destiny library catalog*, iConn.org, and a handful of other heavily-accessed services. Last year, I finally embedded pictures of students using the library.

Some of the schools in our system (not mine) are piloting a 1:1 (device to student) program. Thankfully, Abbott Tech is not one of the pilot schools. The devices were "air dropped" over the summer into the school library to be distributed. Teachers have had no training in 1:1 school culture or expectations. This year, my focus will be to get staff up to speed in case we are blessed with devices next year.

A benefit to this technology influx is access to Google's education tools and permission from those on high to use Google Sites for our webpages. I have started creating a website, soon to be Learning Hub, using a basic teacher template in Google Sites. Using G Sites is awkward. I am researching some of the glitchy parts and writing down some how-to's so I can walk interested teachers through the process. My new site, Henry Abbott Tech Library, will be linked to the Abbott Tech website.

In my Learning Hub, I would like to include
- student book recommendations
- new (to my library) books 
- vocabulary words (Tier II, of course)
- links to library resources and tutorials (screencasted and written)
- a calendar (library and lab reservations)
- and digital resources students and teachers can use in their classes.  
For a librarian in a school that uses Accelerated Reader, I finish a pitifully small number of books. I decided to list the last four books I am reading or have read below my photo. This will keep me honest... and reading. 

My website/hub audience will primarily be students, but I plan to include a link for teacher resources.  I live and die by my "red folder." It is filled with school-specific passwords, master copies of sign-out sheets, and how-to's for obscure pieces ot technology around the building. I will have to keep some of that information out of student hands, but the information that I regularly disseminate to teachers can be stored in the hub. Maybe I can find a password function.

*I always feel like I should be wearing a cape when I talk about the Destiny catalog.

Creative Commons on Blogger

I am so proud of myself. I have added the "Creative Commons" license to my blog.
Here's how to do it:

1. Go to the Creative Commons website and set up your licensing. Copy the code.
2. On the main page of your blog, click on "layout." It's in the left hand column.
3. Choose one of the "Gadgets."  When you click on it, you will see choices.
4. Choose HTML/Java Script. Click on it.
5. Paste in your code.
6. Preview. If you like it, accept the changes.

Mine is at the very bottom of the entire page if you want to peek at it!