Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Thinking about Leadership

I was really interested by the video, Leadership Lessons From the Dancing Guy. The idea that the first person to follow someone doing something that may at first seem strange and crazy, turns that crazy person into a leader, is a fascinating idea. I think using dancing as an illustration is a great way to make that point, because that frequently happens with dancing. Someone has to have the guts to get up and dance first, and then in others join in that first person becomes the leader, the one who started the party instead of some crazy dancer. While I like how this lesson about leadership is presented in a different way and speaks to me in terms of differentiation and approaching lessons in new ways, I really like what it says about leadership in education. In order for change to happen in the world of education you need a few things to happen. You need someone to stand up first, to have the guts to suggest the change. Then you need the first follower to make it ok for others to join in. In the scope of this class, the change we have been talking about is bringing technology into the classroom. So we need to find who will be the leaders in bringing technology into classrooms, and who will be the followers. Because as is shown in this video, the followers are just as important as the leader, since without the followers, the leader is just one crazy person dancing on the grass. Plus to take this metaphor even further, the leader can learn from his/her followers, that first leader who got everyone dancing can learn new moves watching the followers, and make his/her leadership even more effective.

When thinking about leadership in education, one of the great places for leaders to be born and supported is in professional learning communities. I think that since we are talking about technology one great way to have a professional learning community would be to use technology. Having an online forum where teachers and even parents could interact and discuss teaching techniques, best practices and new ways to integrate technology into the classroom, could make a professional learning community even more productive and accessible.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Thoughts about 3 steps

In 3 steps there is a quote from Alvin Toffler which says, "The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn." I just love that quote. I find it hopeful that being literate could mean being able to learn, unlearn and relearn. I mean just thinking about life in general, isn't that what we do everyday, we learn things, and then especially because of technology we have to unlearn and relearn things. I mean every day I get update notifications for one program or another. Recently I just updated firefox to the latest edition, and it took me a little while to get used to the new layout, I kept looking for buttons where they used to be so I had to unlearn what I knew about where everything was and relearn it because it had changed. I think being able to do that is an incredible skill to have. However I feel that so often in school, we are taught what we need to know, but not really how to learn for ourselves. I think by integrating technology into the classroom we can find ways to help our students learn how to learn. Technology involves a different kind of thinking and problem solving that doesn't always happen sitting at a desk in a classroom listening to a teacher lecture.

Another part of the video that I found interesting was the idea of competition. That one day our students would be competing against their peers from around the world, so it would serve them to know the people who they would one day be competing against. I found that interesting because competition was immediately followed by cooperation and collaboration. It seems to me that those two words, didn’t fit perfectly with competition. If you are cooperating and collaborating with someone, why would you want to compete with them? Not that I am against competition, not at all, I think competition can be good at times to help motivate people and propel them forward. However I think that for our students I would like to focus on cooperation and collaboration, because I think working together is a great way to really get things done. I like the idea of having students get to know and learn about other students from around the world, but instead of saying you they are learning about their competition so that they can win, I think it could be presented in a more positive way that knowing things about the world can help everyone be successful. Why not present our students with positive reasons for doing things rather than focusing on winning, focus on the journey first.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Do kids know who they are posting to?

From the readings for this week, one that really stuck out to me was the video Everyone Knows Your Name. The short video really tells so much about the way people, young teens in particular use social networking sites and other websites to post things. You don’t even realize that the people knowing Sara’s name came because of something she posted online until the end. But I think what is key here is that, at first she liked the attention then as it snowballed she got more uncomfortable with it and it’s obvious looking at her facial expressions that she had no idea any of this could or would happen from posting things online. I think that is something that people don’t think about when posting things online. Although really, it is so easy to forget that whatever pictures, videos, or writing that you post online can be seen by countless numbers of people, that is the nature of the internet. I think if people had to stand in front of an audience and do all the things they post online they wouldn’t. But because people can sit behind their computer screens, they may be inclined to do or write things that they would never do in public and yet the internet is a public place. It can provide a false sense of privacy and security for people.

I think for classroom purposes that can sometimes be beneficial if I am trying to hear what all of my students have to say and some of them are really shy about speaking in front of the whole class. Using the internet can be a great way to give voice to students who are usually too shy. But it is obvious that a conversation needs to be had, about the issue of privacy in online interactions if teachers really want to use this technology in the classroom. Even if teachers don’t want to use this kind of web based technology I think this is still an important conversation because kids really need to understand the consequences of using online technology. Since technology is something that pretty much all students are going to come into contact with at some point during their lifetime they need to be educated on how to be safe on the internet, that includes watching what gets posted. Kids don’t realize or think about the fact that future employers may go and look at their facebook page and see things they posted in college or high school that could affect their jobs. As an English major this seems to me to be a great lesson about audience and how a whole new kind of audience is emerging through the use of the internet.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

About blogging

Since I am actually using a blog, I decided that it would be interesting to talk about blogging here on the actual blog. I was already a fan of using blogs in educational setting before taking this class, and am learning even more ways in which it can be useful in the classroom, which is great. I think a big part of the reason for why I like blogs is that I like using journal writing to help get students writing in a way that is more open so they can approach it in ways that work for them. I feel that blogging takes journal writing to the next level because it allows interactions between students, and provides a place for students to experience how people can have very different writing styles. Richardson talks about how blogs "ask readers to think and to respond. They demand interaction" (Richardson, 2010, p.18). Having that interaction is so important for kids, socialization and interaction with others is exactly what kids want. Especially as they reach middle and high school, most students their main joy in school is getting to see their friends. Blogging highlights that, and with guidance from a teacher can be used to really engage students in learning. In addition blogging can allow students to learn from a greater pool of knowledge than is available within each school, because it is online and can be accessed by so many people from around the world. Blogging, especially if teachers can connect students with other students and teachers from around the globe can really expand the scope of what students are learning. Also it can be a great way for students who are usually quiet to have their voices heard without the pressure of speaking in front of the classroom. Like any form of writing, blogging can also help students think through what they are learning, and the added bonus of blogging is that then students get feedback from others about their thoughts which furthers the learning/thinking process even further.

In my own personal experience with blogging I found it to be a great tool. I went to South Africa over the summer and part of the program requirements was that we all had to keep up a blog during our time in South Africa. The topics of the blogs were left up to us, we could talk about anything we wanted really in terms of our trip. We could talk about the schools we visited, the kids we saw, the teachers we met; we could talk about the hotels we stayed at the food we ate, the things we bought, the museums and other attractions we visited, and we did. I found for me that sitting down at the end of the day to blog about what had happened that day was a great way for me to digest all that I was learning and experiencing. On the one hand it was great to be able to think through the experiences, particularly after discussions we had about race and education in South Africa, and yet at the same time let my family back home know how i was and what I was doing. So it served double for me, an educational/emotional outlet for the trip and a way to stay in communication with all my family and friends back home without having to take time to email everyone separately telling about the same things. In that blog I was also able to upload photos of what I was doing which was really nice to give it a visual component to further show what I was learning.

The only difficult aspect of blogging in my mind is assessment. We live and teach in a world where assessment is huge, and we need to have proof that students are learning and mastering whatever we are teaching at that moment. If I am allowing my students to blog in a way similar to what I did, I might find that hard to assess, because every student would come at it in a different way so how would I be able to assess if they are all learning. But I still feel that blogging is very important and useful. Maybe teachers could have different assignments at different times, some would be more strictly assessed while others were more to just practice and show thinking.