Discussion Question 1
Although on the surface many of the available search engines seem to do the same thing, I’ve realized that there are subtle differences amongst them that may make them better (or worse) from the perspective of an educator. I used the search word “earthquake” in the following five sites: Hotbot; Duck, Duck, Go; Webcrawler; Altavista; and Google. Although all of them returned the same few sites as the top options (Wikipedia, the USGS), Altavista was my number one choice for a search engine. Along with listing relevant web sites, it also provided news articles about recent earthquakes, a map pinpointing locations of earthquakes in the United States, and the option to search specifically for images, maps, and videos. My second and third choices were Google and Duck, Duck, Go, respectively. One of the reasons that I lean towards Google is probably because I am familiar with it and did not have to spend a lot of time navigating the search engine. It also provides a number of helpful filters which allow you to alter your search within specific time and media parameters. Duck, Duck, Go presented a very uncluttered interface and also provided a variety of different definitions of the word “earthquake” at the top of the search results, something which would be helpful for students and teachers alike. Hotbot was my fourth choice; although it has more advertising than some of the other search engines, it also allows you to specify what kind of media you’re looking for in your search results. Finally, Webcrawler would also be a useful search engine for teachers because it combines search results from Yahoo, Google, and Bing, potentially enlarging the possible ‘hits’ which one will receive during a search. This exercise has demonstrated to me that educators don’t need to rely on a single search engine and can instead gain access to a variety of different websites, videos, and other media by using several different search engines.
Discussion Question 2
In Leading 21st Century Schools, Schrum and Levin (2009) discuss the discord that can arise between digital natives (meaning students and younger teachers) and digital immigrants (everyone else). The teachers who are digital immigrants are often unable to understand how their students and younger colleagues are able to multitask with new technologies, including reading strategies which may involve reading directly off of a computer screen or hand-held device instead of from a traditional text. The disconnect that occurs between these two groups is an obstacle that must be overcome before full literacy can be achieved in the classroom; teachers must be open minded about the variety of ways that students are now encountering text, while at the same time students must still learn the value of traditional media. However, the reading strategies used with print and online differ substantially. As Schmar-Dobler (2003) points out, adept print readers use a set of comprehension strategies that involve elements such as drawing inferences, asking questions, and determining the most important ideas of a text. These strategies are not inherently different from the manner in which learners encounter information on the Internet. However, online readers must scan information much more vigorously to account for the large volume of available information and must be able to successfully navigate a variety of different website formats (Schmar-Dobler, 2003). In order to ensure that students are able to read effectively online, it can be helpful for teachers to stress the similarities between these two reading strategies in order to demonstrate to the student that he or she already possesses many of the skills necessary to successfully read online.
Discussion Question 3
Easy access to all types of information on the Internet is one of the most positive aspects of the digital age. However, the sheer volume of information requires teachers to provide students with tools that will help them evaluate the quality of the web pages that they visit. In order to ensure that students learn tools which promote good digital citizenship, teachers must promote and model the safe, legal, and ethical use of digital information (Schrum & Levin, 2009). For example, I sometimes make use of video clips in my classes to provide visual emphasis on a particular lesson. This is especially true in my History classes, where clips from documentaries accessed at the History Channel and PBS can bring a lesson alive. However, I make a point of letting my students know where I got the clips and that they have been provided by the copyright holders as a free resource for teachers.
As a high school teacher, I’ve found that many of my students have a very cavalier attitude towards information found online. They often believe that the availability of information online is indicator enough that it is quality material. Although we’ve touched on topics like copyright, fair use, and creative commons, I intend to spend more time in my classes teaching about these issues because I believe that many of my students run the risk of unintentional plagiarism if they continue their current Internet practices (i.e. Not properly citing information found online). My school does not currently have an Internet policy in place for either students or educators, and this is a gap which I intend to bring up at our next staff meeting.
Discussion Question 4
The digital information age has made it easier for students to access instruction, regardless of their location, personal circumstances, or the type of schooling they’re involved in. For example, online learning through virtual high schools, podcasts, and other kinds of educational websites can connect students who live in remote areas with other students and teachers. They can create the sense of a real classroom by using discussion boards, real-time chat functions, and Skype to further their discussion of the course material while building a sense of community. Online learning is also a good option for home-schooled students and students seeking alternative educational experiences (such as those students who have had difficulty adapting to mainstream schools); often, students are able to set their own learning pace as they explore interactive learning modules. Schrum and Levin (2009) note that the dropout rates for online students tends to be higher than in regular schools. However, this issue is being addressed by educators in creative ways; for example, one school created a monitored online study hall for online students to seek help from teachers and complete their work in a more structured environment. Oblender’s research found that this level of support rose the completion level of online classes to over 80% (Schrum & Levin, 2009). With more school districts considering adding online courses to their curriculum, it’s worth questioning how this shift in educational methods may change the face of the modern classroom over the next decade, especially considering that it’s much less expensive to run online classes than a traditional brick-and-board school.
Discussion Question 5
It is true that social networking may be associated with the Pandora’s Box – a realm of vices, diseases, and problems for the whole humanity, as well as for any separate individual. The reason for such a situation is that social networking is loosely guided and controlled, so people obtain an opportunity to share any information, ideas, and thoughts with others in the social networking environment. However, social networking also gives students an opportunity to establish the alternative, augmented reality in which they have added opportunities, and have more freedom of inquiry. The social networking environment enables all users, students included, to get what they want, and the ability of social networking to give educational opportunities depends initially on the aims of the user.
However, no matter whether a student has a motivation to study when using social networks or not, he or she can be stimulated to do so. Educators have been repeatedly discussing the ways to employ social networking in the educational process, and there are numerous reasons for this: first, social networking creates involvement, since it is initially a social experience. Secondly, social networking enacts the social model of learning (according to Bandura’s theory), which is highly workable now (Walsh, 2011). In addition, teachers can combine entertainment students engage in when using social networks, and the educational potential of social networking; for example, they can establish their own logs and forums in which students’ participation will be graded and encouraged. In addition, they can include grading for the quality of students’ writing in social networks in their regular assessment, making them improve their writing during entertainment (Walsh, 2011). There is a huge potential of social networking in the field of stimulating education; hence, teachers have to follow the innovative path to create proactive ways of teaching, without leaving the social networking field as a pure source of troubles, i.e., a Pandora’s Box.
Discussion Question 6
The pace of technology in the educational field is quick and unstoppable; this situation has been partly predetermined by the overall technological progress, and is partly explained by the growing access to distance education for those who work full-time, raise children, or study at the day courses in some educational establishments. The modern technological advancements give teachers to access larger numbers of students simultaneously, holding webinars or web-conferences, establishing digital news-boards, blogs, or interactive classrooms in which all students are free to participate in the discussions, peer reviews, and assignment completion. This image of education is quite optimistic, especially taking into account the greater measure of accessibility for students and teachers, additional skills and opportunities given by online education, and the flexibility of studies.
However, the traditional instruction still has some indisputable advantages over online learning. Some students do not have a strong self-discipline, which makes them hurry completing assignments on the last day, thus losing the thoughtfulness and thoroughness of studies. In addition, the teacher can hardly require attentiveness and diligence from students he or she has never seen in person. Finally, people for whom the usage of innovative technologies is challenging may hardly have access to the online learning tools.
There is no doubt that distance learning continues to take over the traditional educational process for the sake of cost-efficiency, flexibility, and increased access. It is highly probable that 50% of education will be conducted online by 2019. However, the situation may change rapidly once students and teachers realize the value of personal communication during lectures and seminars, the teachers’ ability to pass their own experience and emotions. There is no doubt that traditional, in-class education provides much better learning outcomes, and the transition to digital forms of learning is a necessity for people who cannot afford attending classrooms. In addition, the schools responsible for providing online education are not likely to obtain the range of tools, devices, and skilled staff able to provide high-quality online learning to a half of the students worldwide; hence, the perspective of quick and overall transition to online learning is still doubtable, even under the conditions of rapid digitization of all services and activities.
This week, I visited the Tech & Learning site, and the Innovative Educator site where I read two helpful, informative, and quite original articles about the ways Wikis and text messaging can be used by educators for the sake of expanding the range of educational outreach, opportunities, and modes of cooperation and communication among all stakeholders, i.e., the educational staff, students, and parents. The ideas voiced in both articles were quite innovative, and it was pleasant for me to have this sort of a discovery. Nowadays practically all people understand that the future of education, as well as many other activities, is in technology. However, only few of them are ready to open their minds, and to utilize those tools available for them nowadays.
Wikis were discussed not only as a collaborative tool that can enhance collaboration of both teachers and students; they were offered as an optimal toolkit for the simplification of many education-related areas such as curriculum planning, professional development, and information sharing. It is now obvious that not only the teacher and students can benefit from using a wiki for collaboration, access to materials, etc. The overall school community can save time, money (for paper in particular) in the form of digitizing the majority of tiring, time- and effort-consuming activities such as meetings, project planning, document creation, and course creation. Therefore, I found much useful in the article, and I consider this fresh approach as a highly positive change in any modern educational system.
Speaking about the Innovative Educator site, I want to admit that text messaging has never seemed so multi-functional and empowering to me. I have heard about some text message services helping people without the direct access to a computer; however, I have never heard about such functions as SMS Google, or the benefits of Tweeting by means of using a phone. Indeed, I now feel that even having no computer at hand, an individual can access the vast body of knowledge provided by the global community and Internet sources. In addition, the text messaging system of announcements in schools is also a step forward, since all educators know how tiring it is to listen to irrelevant announcements, spending the lesson time for nothing. Hence, I do believe that this article can be of considerable help not only for teachers, but for principles and educational policymakers as well.
Discussion Question 7
Choosing a WebQuest for the implementation in a classroom is quite hard, since there is a plenty of them published in the Internet, and a teacher may sometimes get lost in the abundance thereof, exchanging quantity for quality. However, I found a very attractive WebQuest at the site webquest.org; this site has a very convenient interface, allowing users to search for WebQuests by key words, category, or academic subject. Since I was focused on literacy Webquests, I chose one from the category “Info Literacy/Library” – its title is “Creating a guide to giving a good oral presentation”, and it available at http://questgarden.com/139/12/2/120211092252/index.htm.
The reason for which I chose this WebQuest is that it is focused on teaching the oral literacy students often lack; the age category for this WebQuest is from 6th to 8th grades, so it can help students who have problems with oral presentations, do not know how to structure them, or simply feel confused about presenting their ideas in public. The present WebQuest is also appealing to me because its process section includes very many useful and varied links that can be explored in the classroom; there is a song with tips for an oral presentation that will be surely liked by students, and some sites with more tips for making the presentation work. There is a link to the resource explaining how to use visuals in the presentation, which may also become a funny adventure for students. Finally, the culmination of the process is a link to a video that will summarize all skills students will need to make an oral presentation, and will become the visual example for students on how to do that.
The evaluation rubric is simplified, assessing the work of students in two categories – use of technology, and the guide created for other students. The teacher’s page presents the introductory speech that teachers may use to inform students about the task they are going to complete through this WebQuest. Overall, I assessed this WebQuest as a positive, involving, and helpful resource for training the oral presentation skills. Hence, I would advise using it to all teachers planning to dedicate a lesson to this literacy aspect.
Discussion Question 8
The podcast of Angie Brown about the importance of digital literacy, its definition, and the ways to practice it in the modern education is very involving and interesting. I liked it very much because of the cheerful pictures of students and teachers collaborating in new ways to enhance digital literacy, and I also enjoyed the way Angie Brown provided the information in the podcast. It is not much, but it gives an initial impression about what literacy is, and why it is important. The advantages of the podcast are the skillful choice of photos, simple and understandable text, and valuable sequence of facts. However, the technical side of the podcast can be improved – the quality of sound is quite poor, and the quality of narration also presupposes lack of preparation. Hence, the podcast should be technically improved, while the content thereof is very good.
The second podcast I viewed was the one of Leanne about technology in education; the podcast is also highly informative, since Leanne included many Web 2.0 devices and IT developments for the sake of improving the educational processes in the 21st century. She also reviewed the WebQuest tools, blogs, and other technological devices. At the end of the podcast, Leanne left the audience with some questions to ponder, which is also stimulating and contributing to information retention. However, the information Leanne provided is quite academic – I would say that the major drawback of the podcast (alongside with its very high quality in general) is that she used much academic information, but did not provide any personal ideas about how to implement them in a classroom. The length of the podcast is also considerable; it would be much more remembered in case the length was reduced at least to 1.5 minutes.
The overall impression from viewing and listening to the podcasts of my fellow students is very positive. I see that all of them have comprehended the material of the course very well, and have obtained a clear vision of how to unite theory and practice in their classrooms. More digital literacy and digital competencies are observed in the materials prepared by my course mates, which is also very optimistic about the course outcomes. I feel technologically empowered, and have many ideas about the application of technology in my class; therefore, I am happy to see that other teachers also feel the same, and want to use the latest technological advancements for the sake of making their studies better.
Schmar-Dobler, E. (2003, Sept.). Reading on the Internet: The link between literacy and technology. Reading Online. Retrieved from http://www.readingonline.org/newliteracies/lit_index.asp? HREF=/newliteracies/jaal/9-03_column/index.html
Schrum, L. & Levin, B.B. (2009). Leading 21st century schools: Harnessing technology for engagement and achievement. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Discussion Question 3: Privacy, Permission, & Technology
Urban, M. (2012). Creating a guide to giving a good oral presentation. QuestGarden. Retrieved March 6, 2012, from http://questgarden.com/139/12/2/120211092252/t-index.htm
Five Ways Innovative Educators Can Use Texting As a Professional Tool (2009). The Innovative Educator. Retrieved February 28, 2012, from http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/2009/12/five-ways-innovative-educators-can-use.html
Nielsen, L. (2009). Eight Ways To Use School Wikis. Tech & Learning. Retrieved February 28, 2012, from http://www.techlearning.com/article/eight-ways-to-use-school-wikis/46216
Walsh, K. (2011). 7 Reasons To Leverage Social Networking Tools in the Classroom. Emergingedtech.com. Retrieved from http://www.emergingedtech.com/2011/06/7-reasons-to-leverage-social-networking-tools-in-the-classroom/
Schrum, L. & Levin, B.B. (2009). Leading 21st century schools: Harnessing technology for engagement and achievement. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Schrum, L. & Levin, B.B. (2009). Leading 21st century schools: Harnessing technology for engagement and achievement. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.