Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Online Community: A to Z Teacher Stuff Forum

For the past several months I have been regularly reading and occasionally posting to the forum section of the A to Z Teacher Stuff Forum. There are a variety of different ongoing threads here, from the very general, such as Secondary Education, to more specific topics such as Behavior Management. Here are my opinions on the situation, Wild West Movie style:

The Good:

The nice thing about reading and posting to this forum was that many of the people were very supportive; whether or not I took their advice or agreed with what they were saying, it was nice to see people generally supporting each other, which in my experience, isn't necessarily always the case in the relatively anonymous Internet world. This post was a good example of that type of support and advice.

Another thing I enjoyed about reading the forum was the wealth of ideas out there-- again, not that all of them work, but usually they are being supported by people who have found them effective in their classrooms.

The Bad:

Truthfully, while there were a lot of things that I enjoyed about participating in the online community, I have to say that I really prefer talking to someone face to face. Especially in the situation I am currently in at Bartlett, where my colleagues in the Cook Inlet Tribal Council program are all teachers that retired and then came back because they truly love teaching, poring over articles on the Internet seems like an inefficient use of time in comparison to talking with seasoned veteran teachers who know my particular situation and my students.

The Ugly:

The worst thing about posting and reading through the forums at A to Z Teacher Stuff was the fact that there are several posters out there who are constantly pushing a particular fad, which may or may not be related to a product. Either these people are really hooked on one particular idea, such as "Power Teaching," or they are somehow promoting a product, because regardless of the person's situation, it seems that they always recommended the same thing. An example of this can be found here.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

IEP Project: Tel-A-Vision Web-Based Software

For my personal Individualized Education Plan I learned how to use a type of web-based software that is designed to help students clarify their personal goals. I decided on this project for myself because I felt that the students in my Transitions class would really benefit by doing a project that encouraged them to reflect on how they want to live their lives. The Transitions class is designed to help the Alaska Native / American Indian students that are currently going through a "transition" in their lives, whether it be a transition from a village to Anchorage, from school to school, or from one living situation to another. From discussions we were having in class, I got the impression that many of these students felt uprooted; they had been living one way of life, and then suddenly they find themselves playing a new game, with new rules. I hoped that by helping them to clarify their goals, it would help to think about the life *they* personally wanted to live, and to start working towards that ideal.

The web-based software can be found at www.telavision.tv Basically, using this website students can create short media presentations that can include text, music/audio, video, and special effects. The idea is that students will use these media tools to create a vision of their future, writing down their goals as if they have already happened. This could also be done using a program such as Windows Media Maker or iMovie, but the benefit of the Tel-A-Vision software is that it the basics can be learned relatively quickly, there are excellent built-in tutorials on its use, and it has a large number of stock photos, music, and most importantly, video effects. This allows students to focus more on the "meat" of the project- their vision for their future - rather than spending the majority of the time learning to use the software. Even in the relatively short time that we worked on this unit, thanks to the built-in video effects, several students were able to create presentations that were very visually appealing. In fact, the projects turned out so well that we took the class to the Alaska Native Charter School across the bridge from Bartlett and had them present to the elementary students there.

Unfortunately, due to time constraints during the school year, I was unable to fully explore all of the available features of this web-based software until after we had already finished the unit. My time spent exploring the options and creating my own Tel-A-Vision project has helped me refine the lesson plans I created for this project a bit more and has also shown me that the grading rubric needed to be altered in several ways. I also now have a video to model for the students, which will definitely make the unit better; what I did this year was to simply give the students time to look at other people's projects. I am glad that I spent the time to play with the software and look at the available options, as I think that it will help me make this unit even better for next year's Transitions class.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Helpful Internet Resources

Here are three websites that I've found really helpful in my teaching-- hopefully someone else will find them useful as well...

Center for Media Literacy

This is a fantastic website, primarily because it has a document which contains 25 free, downloadable media literacy lesson plans. These lesson plans are all well-organized around themes and are interesting and engaging. Media literacy is something that I have been incorporating into my transitions class, primarily because I see how much influence the media has on my students. Music, movies, television, and advertisements are so powerful and so prominent that they often overpower the other influences in my students’ lives.


This is another great website that I have also incorporated into my Transitions class. Many of my students need help in setting goals, so this website provided an excellent project for them. Basically, the website allows people to easily create short digital story-like animations, complete with pictures, text slides, music, and effects. The project helped my students think about their goals, they had a great time adding music and other effects, and they were proud of their finished projects.

The Alaska Native Knowledge Network

The Alaska Native Knowledge Network is a collection of resources about the different Native cultures here in Alaska. One of the things that I like about this site is that most of the resources were created by native people, so they are not using secondhand knowledge and they are not insensitive. I have used this site to for many things, including finding new games for my Native Games class and researching traditional medicinal uses of local plants, among other things.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Alcohol, Assets and Me

Well, here it finally is, my digital story. I plan on using this story as a way to introduce a unit on Developmental Assets with students in my Transitions class. The class is designed for students going through a transition in their life, whether it is from a rural area to Anchorage, one school to another, one household or another, or any other major life change. Since their lives are changing and most of them don’t have a routine quite yet, I think it is important to talk about working on building positive things in one’s life now, to help them feel in charge of their life, rather than feeling like circumstances are taking them for a ride.

My story is actually quite personal, as I share details about my past experiences with alcohol. While it puts my reputation at risk a little bit, I’ve found that the one thing that keeps my students engaged and interested is a sincere personal story. I created the story map with this in mind, so hopefully it comes across as sincerely as I wrote it. From our discussions, I know that alcohol is something that affects the majority of my students’ lives, either directly or indirectly, and so I believe that this is probably the most important thing that they can discuss in this class.

Finally, here is the rubric that I would use to assess students on a digital project. This rubric emphasizes the student choosing a topic that they are interested in and then creating a connection with their audience, using planning and understanding of media guidelines and digital tools to help them achieve those goals.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

I. Assistive Technologies for Reading
Ted S. Hasselbring and Margaret E. Bausch

II. Overview

In their article “Assistive Technologies for Reading,” Ted Hasselbring and Margaret Bausch describe how assistive technology can help students with learning disabilities. They detail how computer-based applications can help by providing reading support and reading intervention. One case study in Kentucky detailed how text-reader software supported numerous students who didn’t read at grade level by converting text to speech, allowing students who didn’t read at grade-level to keep up with their peers (see quote 3). Another study in Des Moines showed how reading intervention software targeting older students helped them to increase their reading levels to the point where they no longer needed special education services (see quote 4).

Continue reading this article assessment...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I. The Overdominance of Computers

By Lowell Monke

II. Overview

In “The Overdominance of Computers,” Lowell Monke argues that in a world increasingly dominated by computers and other high-tech tools, schools need to focus on providing students with real-life experiences and ethical preparation rather than providing technology training. He questions the commonly held assumption that computers increase achievement (see quotes 1, 2, 3), and makes the case that because computers symbolize and reflect reality, it is important that students first have a deep understanding of that reality. Without this understanding of reality and without ethical training, Monke argues that the children of today will not be prepared to make decisions about the value of new technological advances to human beings (5). Monke’s final recommendation for schools is to minimize the use of technology tools for younger students to allow them to develop a foundation of understanding of the world, then to give in-depth training not only on how to use high-tech tools in secondary schools, but on how to use them wisely.

Continue reading assessment...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Philosophy of Education Video

While I don't think that all of my beliefs about education can be summarized in a 90 second sound byte, I've discussed some of my philosophy in the video found here. Of course, it is easy to have a philosophy of education-- the difficult part is to be able to live up to your own beliefs in the day to day tasks of teaching; constantly evaluating whether or not your actions are aligned with your philosophy. I'm certainly working at it, and I think as time goes on my actions are beginning to live up to my philosophy.