Swan Song

You Don’t Have to Go Home

As the Spring 2013 semester draws to a close, I struggle to find phrases without cliches, so I will attempt to bypass the usual nonsense including lines from Semisonic’s one hit, “Closing Time,” or Green Day’s “Time of Your Life.”

Throughout this semester, I have blogged, micro-blogged (Tweeted), and logged in to enough internet services to make your head spin (Diigo, Google Drive, Scribd, Ning, WordPress [obviously], and Weebly, just to name a few. The important thing to focus on here is the learning that took place amid the chaos of having a dozen different accounts and passwords to keep track of. What did I learn about blogging and micro-blogging? Simply put, I learned that these tools are more than just an outlet for teenage angst and purposeless quoting of brilliant lines from the latest hit by the Zac Brown Band. Professionals use sites like WordPress and Twitter to share information and stay up-to-date on the latest information in their fields. With constant troubleshooting from peers around the globe, it is no surprise that professionals flock to these hubs of information. It makes their lives so much easier!

ComputerHug460x276

The Blog of My Life

My time on WordPress has mainly been dominated by requirements for a college class, so the professional aspect of my personality had to stay awake for at least an hour a week. It has been a challenge that I cannot honestly say that I excelled at. Where I struggled most was to keep my words alive. That is to say that I did not want a blog that read like 1,000 pages of legal documentation, and at the same time, I needed to provide some perspective on the various pieces of research that I needed to complete. Even now, I am wishing there were more conversational ways to go about telling you about my experiences without stepping too far from the pedestal of professionalism. Perhaps video-blogging is next…?

Immature-Businessman

It’s the End of the Blog As We Know It (and I Feel Fine)

With that all said, this is the end of the line for my blogging, at least for the time being. Being a student, the nature of my career is transient, at best. So, although our time here is at an end, do me once last favor, readers: never stop learning through technology and each other.

calvin-hobbes-new-year-resolution1

Radio Shows and Regents: A Perfect Match?

The Skills

In a recent blog, I talked about the creation of a radio show for a college class. The experience was a novel one, if nothing else. As “pre-service teachers,” we have a wide range of opportunities to use the skills students will be learning in our classrooms. Every new skill that we picked up in this radio show (use of computers for the editing of the podcast / drafting and editing commercials / organizing the segments) could potentially be generalized into an English class.

tech

Technology

In today’s rapidly-expanding, global society, technology takes on new importance each and every day. Social media allows communication between opposite poles of the planet without delay. Information spreads at a rate of somewhere around the speed of light. Collaboration between groups on different continents is no longer a flight of fancy; it is reality. A radio show might not exactly entail intercontinental collaboration, but communication over even small distances is essential to the success of group projects nowadays. Services like Google Docs and Edmodo provide the spaces that group members need to bring their work together.

erase

Drafting and Editing

Education has shifted since days of old. In the antiquated system of the past, students had short periods of time to compose entire works. For example, students would come into class and write an entire essay. One draft, one grade. This is no longer the case. Today, students are encouraged (and required) to review their own work several times, looking to create the best work possible. Certainly, there is still a place for single-sitting assessments for basic knowledge acquisition of long lists of necessary facts, but the majority of student work should see multiple revisions. The radio show provides this element of a Regents curriculum. In our radio show, in particular, drafting was critical to the composition of our commercials. The purpose of these commercials needed to be carefully considered. From there, revisions were important in order to achieve that purpose through the different clips and sound bites we used.

file

Organizing

Organization is yet another vital Regents skill that students practice in the creation of a radio show. In Regents writing, the organization of ideas is crucial to success. Logically, if a student presents a series of solid but entirely disconnected points, they will likely score quite low. In a radio show, students are encouraged to create a flow that makes sense to listeners. In order to do this really effectively, they will have to organize the segments of the radio with a high degree of cohesion.

Regents Radio Show

A project with an emphasis on technology in a tech-driven society, room for revisions, and cohesion of related ideas, hmm… Not to mention the collaborative and creative elements. With all of these definitive Regents skills embedded into a single project, it would be no surprise if the Regents board decided to get creative with their next exam. “Students will have 12 hours to create a radio show based on two works of fiction and one work of non-fiction in groups of 2-4.” That one is for free, Board of Regents. You are welcome.

radio students

Cortland Media Madness

WCMM Radio

Recently, I had the chance to work with two of my colleagues on a radio show. The exact criteria of the project were kept deliberately vague to stimulate creativity. Simply put, we were told, “make a radio show.” Okay. Where do we start? Looking at a blank slate, we found ourselves at an unusual place. As college students, it is not often we have legitimate creative license where our task at hand is not completely prescribed. We gravitated toward a conversational show, something that didn’t feel like an assignment. After one of our brainstorming sessions broke down into conversation about pop culture, we knew we had found our radio show. Cortland Media Madness had been born.

radio mic

The Arduous Path to Broadcast

Once we had our topic, there was the matter of dividing up work. Who would do what? My colleagues and I, being of the agreeable sort of people, did not have a particularly difficult time with this process. We were required to have a few “commercials,” so we each claimed one. My colleagues chose to focus on reality television, while my commercial reflected a cinematic experience. Naturally, these commercials served to focus the conversations of the radio show itself. When it came time to record, the most difficult part was simply deciding who should speak. We all knew what needed to be done. Eventually, someone spoke up, and we recorded.

Radio

Summer Blockbuster 

As I mentioned, I had some work to do on my own. I was to create a commercial  for an epic upcoming movie. However, I also wanted to have some fun with this assignment. So, rather than come up with a plot for a whole new movie, I decided to poke a little fun at the way that movie commercials try to reach their audiences. I aimed to include as many of the cliched conventions of the genre as I could; explosions, dramatic narration, “Duel of the Fates,” you name it. There is also the matter of audio trailers not being particularly effective. To cover this, most of the “content” of this commercial involved non-sequiturs or cheesy fictional movie lines.  I threw it all together using the GarageBand app on a Mac in the college library. I’d used editing software before, so this task was none too difficult.

Garage Band

On the Air

Without further ado, the link to the highly anticipated podcast: WCMM Radio!

Hello World! : Coding in the Classroom

A New Kind of Literacy

Computer programming is the fundamental science behind an increasing amount of objects that we interact with in our daily lives. Without coding or computer science, there would be no iPhones, televisions, traffic signals, or Finding Nemo. But how many of us had the opportunity to pick up this essential skill while rising through the ranks of primary and secondary school? As Hadi and Ali Partovi, co-founders of Code.org, recently stated in an article for the Huffington Post, “only 9 states even recognize computer science as a math or science! Only 10% of schools even offer it.” With technology, and tech-related jobs, on the rise, shouldn’t we be trying to prepare our students as much as we can for the job market that they will be exposed to? Code.org has also released a video to attempt to ease some apprehension surrounding coding, which you can view by following this link or simply by clicking below:


The Rationale

“Okay,” you are probably saying at this point, “but can’t we just leave the programming to the programmers?” After all, there are already people who are more than happy to take up these jobs. John Naughton at the Guardian formed an excellent analogy in his article, appropriately titled, “Why all our kids should be taught how to code.” He said, “we made the mistake of thinking that learning about computing is like learning to drive a car, and since a knowledge of internal combustion technology is not essential for becoming a proficient driver, it followed that an understanding of how computers work was not important for our children.” I might even go so far as to suggest that a glossary knowledge of automobiles also be added to an effective curriculum. The goal is to arm students with as much relevant knowledge as we can before we kick them out of the proverbial nest and into “the real world.” If coding is one of these tools, I’ll be the first to say, “I’m in.”

code

The Next Move

If we continue to pigeonhole coding as a “math issue” or a “science issue” or even a “computer science issue,” no progress will be made anytime soon. Coding could be considered just as essential to the English language arts curriculum as reading, writing, speaking, or listening. ELA education is founded in provided students essential life skills, including problem-solving and appreciation for other cultures. Coding can be just another vehicle for this grand task. In fact, Parmy Olsen, for an article at Forbes.com, covered the inclusion of coding into the curricula of 550 schools in Estonia. She said of the bold decision to incorporate coding from first grade on, “the idea isn’t to start churning out app developers of the future, but people who have smarter relationships with technology, computers and the Web.” It seems that each new day brings a new technology to our doorstep. For ourselves and our students, these technologies should not be foreigners to us. In fact, it is computer science and the Web that help make our society a global society. Ultimately, it is time to dig into coding and connect to the globe. It all starts by saying, “Hello World!”

computer_guy

For more resources on learning to code, check out:

Code.org – www.code.org

Code School – http://www.codeschool.com/

Game-Based Learning: Friend or Foe?

The Popularity Contest

The notion of playing games is quite fair removed from the public opinion of what one might consider “teaching.” In fact, since their inception in 1947, video games have taken quite a great deal of flak. Over the years, concerned parents have referred to video games as brain-rotting, violent, and sexist. The fact remains that video games are extremely popular. Martha Irvine sums up a 2007 study in a review for the Huffington Post, stating that “ninety-seven percent of young respondents [12-17 year-olds] play video games” and “half of the respondents said they had played a video game the previous day.”

popular

Good vs. Evil

Popularity, unfortunately, does little to prove that video games have content to disprove parental opinions. The question then becomes “do video games have the kind of merit that would not only convince parents of their worth but also of their place in the classroom?” The simple answer is that of many other age-old questions: “Yes…in moderation.” However, the simple answer does this issue justice.  Jordan Shapiro explains the pros of one video game that is being used in many classrooms already, called Gamestar Mechanic, stating that it “encourages social interaction. The ideas don’t stay isolated within a kid’s head. Instead, kid-game-designers create and share their learning experience with peers. In this way, they are motivated by relationships; kids are inspired to think of game creation as a way to articulate and express themselves. Likewise, they are motivated to interpret other people’s games and comment accordingly.”

games vs teachers

Idealism or Realism?

If used appropriately, it seems, that video games might soon find themselves as a staple of many English language arts classrooms. To that end, Terrell Heick goes so far in an article for Edutopia concerning the role of video games in classrooms to say that “video games not only have a role, but also demand a seat next to novels and poems, speeches and letters, essays and short stories.”  A bold statement, but perhaps there is some validity to Heick’s assertion. Given the right context, could video games be used as just another medium for education? Now, here, we finally might have a simple answer. With the right approach anything can be viewed as a text, and based on the popularity of video games, ELA educators are looking at a recipe for success in the digital age.

Teacher of the Future (1)

Technology and Testing


The Classic Method

If you have never experienced a standardized test in its original format, you have certainly missed out on an experience. After hours of grueling hard work, you exit the testing site, mentally drained and physically exhausted, uncertain as to whether you went back and answered questions #6 as you meant to. The process is tedious and involves using a pencil (only #2, mind you!) to fill in a vast array of bubbles on a “Scantron” sheet and more paperwork than a secretary is likely to see in several lifetimes. 
Bored college students sleeping in lecture hall
Good News!

The good news here is that this process may become just a little bit easier for students to tackle. In fact, Julia Lawrence, in an article for Education News, suggests that computerized testing may be closer than you think, “in the next two years, the majority of states will be adopting a new suite of standardized tests administered with the aid of a computer.” Imagine that. Save yourself from the hassle of reams of paperwork and arthritis-inducing pencil scribbling for several hours by simply sitting down at your nearest computer terminal and engaging in an otherwise extremely high-stakes and stressful test.

test comps

The Facts of Life

We have the good, now a little of the bad; there may be some drawbacks to computerized standardized testing as well. Patrick Ledesma of Education Week describes in his blog how some schools in Virginia are already using digital standardized tests, “for many schools that means taking away all those desktop and laptop labs for setting up individual testing stations. […] And some schools close their libraries so students can test on the computers.” So, during certain parts of the year, valuable technological resources are no longer available for any of their laundry list of potential academic uses. For students, there is really no decision that need be made. “Get out of class and just use a computer for hours? Where do I sign up?”  A study from Boston College also showed that “it [computerized standardized testing] adds considerably to the cost of testing and creates new test security concerns” and “it would penalize low-tech students with poor keyboard skills.”

girl testing

 

Decisions, decisions

Any new technology comes with a series of affordances and drawbacks. Ultimately, it will be an effort on the students part to make testing work, and the effort on the part of schools comes from choosing appropriate testing and creating/maintaining a positive space for students to learn and take these tests. Will it be worth removing the paper middle man in standardized tests, or will the traditional methodology stand the test of the ages? Time will tell.

References:

http://www.bc.edu/research/nbetpp/publications/v1n2.html – The Gap between Testing and Technology in Schools

http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/leading_from_the_classroom/2012/05/dreaming_about_future_technologies_during_online_testing_season_the_2012_nmc_horizon_report_k-12_edi.html – Technology for Online Standardized Testing vs. Technology for Teaching, Learning, and Creative Inquiry by Patrick Ledesma

http://www.educationnews.org/technology/samples-from-new-standardized-exams-show-up-online/ – Samples from New Standardized Exams Show Up Online by Julia Lawrence

Pictures from:

http://www.educationnews.org/technology/samples-from-new-standardized-exams-show-up-online/ – Students on computers

http://ethnicthoughtswithblackpenink.blogspot.com/ – Sleeping students

http://21k12blog.net/2010/11/18/open-computer-testing-putting-21st-c-learning-to-the-test/ – Girl smiling

Conquering Your Technophobia

The Fear
Everyone is afraid of something. For some people, it’s spiders; for others, it’s great heights; but for a select group, their fear is of technology. Now these people may not be afraid of electronic devices and digital media in the traditional sense of the word. For example, a technophobe does not fear the small, angry man inside her cell phone coming out to exact vengeance. Contemporary technophobes are those afflicted with more of a fear of change than anything else.

AngryManCell
The Victims
Teachers may be more likely than other professionals to succumb to technophobia. While standards are constantly modified and revised and technology daily advances, teachers may cling to the safe and familiar worlds of hardcover anthologies and chalk-covered blackboards. A veteran in the field knows of her own past success without technology. Why should she risk learning to use a whole slew of complicated devices and services when it may take away from her own proven methodologies that don’t have so much electronic demand? A simple answer might be that students are a part of this rapidly expanding society and teachers must be in tune with the needs of these students.

 Hope
Hope is Available
There is support available on a literally worldwide basis. Techno-conservatives need not take a leap of faith. Jeff Dunn, in his article, The Must-Have Guide To Helping Technophobic Educators, explains, “when we learn a new skill, we do not doubt that we need special training in that skill. For instance we would not fly a plane without taking flight lessons. Similarly we need training to ensure that we know how to integrate technology into the classroom. Technology is not an end in itself, but rather a means by which learning outcomes can be improved.” Ultimately, the goal is to benefit students to the greatest degree possible. Technology is a tool that allows, facilitates, and encourages that goal.

A Look Ahead

Once the astute educators of this nation can come to terms with technology and its place in the classroom, the next step is easy: connect. The internet provides connections to people and resources the world over. For example, a novice techno-user wants to find some easy ways to include technology in their classroom. A simple search returns multitudes of links including Kim Haynes’ article “12 Easy Ways to Use Technology in Your Classroom, Even for Technophobic Teachers” and a blog by Cate Blouke describing “Having Fun with Technology in the Classroom.” Even though, it may be scary at first, technology is a teacher’s ally.

handshake

References:

Jeff Dunn, The Must-Have Guide to Helping Technophobic Teachers

Kim Haynes, 12 Easy Ways to Use Technology in Your Classroom, Even for Technophobic Teachers

Cate Blouke, Having Fun with Technology in the Classroom

Pictures from:
Cell Phone Man: http://mygadgetnews.com/tech/the-scoop-on-4g-technology-us-wireless-carriers
Handshake: http://www.madeontherange.com/Businesses/deerwood_technologies.html
Hope: http://www.hopeinspiredministries.org/

Icebreaker – (Keys)

This post serves mainly as an introduction for a class I am enrolled in at SUNY Cortland called New Media Literacy and English language arts. The technology setup for this class has been tedious, if nothing else. We were asked to sign up for a plethora of social media websites and other useful resources. We have been provided with in-depth and altogether very thorough walkthroughs for each of these new media, therefore it is has not been a difficult process. I can see where one might find difficulty in this process, but I would suggest just sticking to the books and the walkthroughs which are provided for our convenience.