Thursday, March 29, 2012

Is Teaching a Noun or a Verb for You?

It is our last physical class this evening, but I certainly hope it is not the end of your PLNs. I have been trying very hard to get everyone to see the value of a personal learning network in the context of becoming a reflective educator.  The co-teaching and co-learning that has occurred in EDSS 530, 531, 541 should be a model for how you might collaborate with peers in your sites to enhance student learning and engagement.  There have been mix-ups, a little confusion, and a few technical issues, but isn't that a reflection of learning itself?  Learning is messy.  Learning is personal.  Learning is . . .

In this week's 4pm #edchat the discussion: What should be included in a new model for professional development? garnered over 2,500 tweets. . .a large amount of tweets for one hour. Problems with professional development (PD) have been around for years.  While technology can offer a clever solution to connect educators around the globe, I do not believe it can solve the problem of relevant professional development.  The current model of the educational institution dictates the professional development.  People wait around for the "expert" to enlighten the masses in a new method of instruction or curriculum that will revolutionize education.  As a technology resource teacher, I see a ton of technology wasting away in classrooms by teachers who use the excuse, "I need some more training on this. . ." or "It's too hard to monitor what the kids are doing on the computers. . ."  or "I just don't have time to learn how to use all that stuff. . ."  I think the same excuse could be used if we were discussing culturally relevant pedagogy, or integration of standards, or community involvement in the classroom, etc.  The point is that if you maintain a stance that learning, or training, is something that must be scheduled and led by an expert before it can occur, you will never be a successful teacher.
It is my experience that the best teachers are the ones who are reflective.  Reflective teachers are constantly looking for ways to improve their craft (teaching).  They reflect on what works, what doesn't work, how students respond, how students don't respond, the impact on technology in the lesson, in learning, etc.  They do not wait for learning (training) to happen to them, they seek ways to connect with others to collaborate on ways to improve, they use technology to access information, they share what they learn freely with others.  Their classrooms are messy, highly personal and there is high levels of student engagement. . . .
I find myself wondering if teachers can be taught to be reflective?  I want to believe that they can, but it has to be a personal choice and the majority of the work must come within.  All of the PD in the world will not make an unreflective teacher reflective.  And I believe that, unless you are a reflective teacher, you will never promote the type of learning that our students deserve. . .
"What is the first business of one who practices philosophy? To get rid of self-conceit. For it is impossible for anyone to begin to learn that which he thinks he already knows."  Epictetus
Whether we are talking about philosophy or education the premise is the same.  You have to be willing to let go of your pride and your ego if you want to make a difference in the life of a child.

Why do I bring this up in the context of EDSS 530?  Well, I have been attempting to get you to cultivate your PLN for the last ten weeks.  All this in a veiled, or not so veiled, attempt to get you to become reflective in your practice.  I have noticed a fair amount of success (what I would consider "A" work), but not to the degree for which I was hoping.  Those who were reflecting in the first seven weeks are pretty much the same individuals who have continued to reflect.  Being reflective isn't easy.  It isn't something that just happens overnight.  It isn't something that you schedule in your planner.  It is something that must be cultivated and given a fair amount of attention to. . .It is organic. If you are looking for a checkoff list for becoming a reflective teacher, you will be searching in vain.  I am definitely not saying that technology is the necessary component of a reflective educator, but it is a powerful medium to allow you to connect, learn, share, and grow.  If you are not taking advantage of this, you are truly missing out on a golden opportunity.

With that said, I still have hope that you will take advantage of the opportunities provided for you for the rest of the semester.  I would like to see you continue to use your blog to reflect on your practice if you have been doing that. . .If you have not been actively cultivating your PLN, time is literally and figuratively running out.

Lastly, I told everyone that I would let you know about the final assignment, the Digital Reflection Project, tonight (Mar 29).   I am going to ask that you do complete the project.  It will be due posted on your blogs by May 7.  The project, according to the syllabus is:
Digital Reflection Project (20% of grade): At the end of the semester you will produce a digital project reflecting your learning in the course and how you see yourself applying what you have learned.  It can be a website, a video, or another creative digital tool that uniquely represents a culmination of your learning experience.  The projects will be embedded on student blogs before the last day of class.  
I will give you a lot of freedom to complete the project.  I want you to make it personal.  If you were to quantify it in video terms, I am looking for a 5-min explanation of your learning in the course, which of course, could be a blending of the three.  I want you to focus on how technology has helped you learn.  You can do a screencast, a Prezi, or something else.  I am more than happy to meet with you in small groups or individually if you need help.  The finished product will be embedded on your blog.  Here is a sample of a very similar project I did with a group of students from USD:
I particularly like the examples of Marissa, Annie, and Sherilyn. . .

Monday, March 5, 2012

PLN, Expectations, and You. . .or . . .How not to Spoon Feed

Somewhere in the Eastern Sierras
As we begin to complete the face-to-face (F2F) part of your education program, I want to take a few minutes to discuss my expectations for your work in my class.  As technology integration is a challenge for educators in schools, more so as a limit of creativity than an actual technical issue, such is the struggle to get students to truly create, cultivate, and maintain a PLN.  I get that.  I don't think I would be a very reflective educator if I did not see this.  My role in this process is more mentor than teacher.  The transparency of my PLN is an attempt to show you value of having one yourself.  A true PLN must be just that, a personal learning network. For it to be effective, it has to come from the desire of the participant. In this case, you. I cannot really force you to embrace your PLN, I can only set the condition under which a motivated learner will utilize the tools/network at her disposal. I have offered you guidelines on what a cultivated PLN should look like, but they are merely guidelines, not rules.

With that said, there are a few things that I do expect you to complete for EDUC 530 (in addition to the To Do list I have maintained on this blog). In times of stress and cognitive dissonance–an environment  a college semester might foster–I imagine a list might be helpful:

Original blog postsat least 8 "tweetable" posts (could definitely be more!).  These could be in response to something you read, discussed in class, discovered on Twitter/Tweetdeck, etc.  If you are struggling for a topic, I have some great inspiring/thought provoking videos on YouTube (jheil65) and Pinterest. Seth Godin has also released a very interesting manifesto on education called Stop Stealing Dreams, which is available in multiple formats for free. It is organized in numbered blog-like reflections for easy discussion/reflection.  I would also love some weekly reflections on your experience in the classroom.  (As I mentioned in class a few weeks ago, you do not have to complete my work when the F2F ends. You are welcome to complete it during your student teaching.)  When you complete a reflection, I would like you to tweet a link to Twitter with the hashtag #csusmedu

Education chats: I would like to see at least 2 reflections on educational chats in which you participated.  These reflections should be thoughtful blog posts on the experience and your level of participation/interaction in them.  The hashtag, topic of the chat, and date would be helpful.

Use of Diigo:  I hope that you are beginning to see the value of having a place to save your bookmarks in a social space.  It allows you to share and research easily.  I would like to see a fair amount of tags on your Diigo tagroll.
(Another form of bookmarking can be your use of Pinterest, or another microblog/content curation site.  I would love a link to your work on your blog and perhaps even a reflection or two on what you have curated, or pinned.)

Twitter:  I would like to see you continue to use Twitter and our #csusmedu hashtag to connect with your peers and share ideas/reflections/questions/comments.  As Dr. White said in his video, to understand Twitter, you must participate in it! This participation is not only a great way to spark your interest in maintaining a PLN, it is a great way to network with your peers and connect with other educators around the globe.

Comments:  I think this is the hardest thing to do because it makes us the most vulnerable.  If I truly offer you an opinion on your writing, I am exposing myself and my ideas to the world, which can be quite scary.  I understand this.  This is why I try to create multiple opportunities for you to respond to your peers in a "classroom" setting.  Once you get in the habit of making public comments, you might be inspired to comment on a blog post from a stranger. . .Here is an example of a comment I left earlier in the semester on Education Rethink, a thought-provoking blog by a teacher (I think I left the first comment. . .even scarier for me).  Commenting forces us to examine our beliefs and ideas before writing (well, at least it should), which fosters our growth and development as reflective educators.  If you do comment on a blog outside of class, I would like you to tweet a link. . .or reflect on the commenting process on your blog.

Classroom Visit:  After our visit to Oceanside, I would like a blog post reflecting on the experience.  Use the following as a guideline:
How was technology integrated into the curriculum?  Do you feel that it promoted student learning?
Is there anything you saw that makes this classroom/school unique?
What did you learn and how does it relate to the class theme?

Disrupting Class:  I have a blog post that explains the expectations for the book.

Question: What advice would you give a peer who was struggling with his/her PLN? If you are struggling, your question is, What has been your greatest struggle in cultivating your PLN?  Please leave a comment below.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Reading: Disrupting Class (plus guiding questions)

'Adapting the monolithic' photo (c) 2010, Eric E Castro - license: the the TPAs have come to a close, I want to give you the last reading assignment for my class.  I want you to read the first five chapters of Disrupting Class.  Below, I have given some guiding questions to help you process the reading. My experience in teaching with this particular book is that it is often hard to connect to if you are not already familiar with the topic or work in education.  I would like you to answer the guiding questions in a blog post (could be a video post or a use of a graphic organizer, etc.).  I hope to discuss this in class either this week or next, depending on our group schedule.  I will firm up the day we will be discussing this and send it out ASAP.

We will discuss the reading in depth on March 14.  I would like you to complete your post by March 12 and thoughtfully comment on at least 5 peer blogs (perhaps someone who don't talk to much in person) before class on the 14th.

Chapter 1: Why Schools Struggle to Teach Differently when each Student Learns Differently

1. Explain the difference between interdependence and modularity.  How is education currently organized?  

Chapter 2: Making the Shift:  Schools meet Society’s need

2. Explain the disruptive innovation theory.  What does this have to do with schools?

Chapter 3: Crammed Classroom Computers

3.  Why doesn’t cramming computers in schools work?  Explain this in terms of the lessons from Rachmaninoff (what does it mean to compete against nonconsumption?)

Chapter 4: Disruptively Deploying Computers

4. Explain the pattern of disruption.

5. Explain the trap of monolithic instruction.  How does student-centric learning help this problem?

Chapter 5: The System for Student-Centric Learning

6. Explain public education’s commercial system.  What does it mean to say it is a value-chain business?  How does this affect student-centric learning?

Are Grades Necessary for Learning?

I found this shortened video of Dan Pink on a Washington D.C. television show from Larry Ferlazzo's blog.  As most of you read Pink and I am extremely interested in the concept of learning versus grades (as we have discussed in class), I thought you all might find this interesting. . .

So my question for the class is this:  What would happen if we took grades out of the equation? Would kids learn more or less than they do now? Explain.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Learning in New Media Environments

I have been a fan of Dr. Michael Wesch's work for awhile now. He produced a video a few years back with his class called, "A Vision of Students Today." He has since did an update on the video in amazing HTML5 format (both can be found on my YouTube page) I would like you to watch this presentation, "Learning in New Media Environments." and write a reflection (as as new blog post) based on this idea: What does this video mean for you as a person, a parent, an educator, and a leader? You can answer any or all of the ideas that apply. Please share your post on Twitter and comment on your peers' posts as well.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Welcome to EDSS 530

First of all, welcome everyone to your last semester of your single subject credential program!  Wow, I am really excited to see what we can do in this course over the next 8 to 10 weeks.  I have been a huge proponent of the use of a personal learning network (PLN) for educator's professional growth and development for awhile now.  This class will allow us to use this concept to support your learning and to connect to the other courses you will be taking this semester.  Of course, we will discuss all of this in much greater detail when we meet face to face (F2F).  We realize that it might be a bit strange at first and you might need to take a few days to wrap your heads around the idea of integrating three of your courses, but I assure you we will do our best to make this semester a great experience.
Our first meeting will include a discussion of the co-teaching and integrated nature of the semester, as well as a discussion of the assignments for the semester.  Much of the day will also be spent learning about PLNs and the technology tools you will be using.