Sunday, July 29, 2012

getting organized

In response to class on Friday, "Organizing My Online Life," I say... "meh."

I think that the internet offers some fantastic resources that can and would make certain aspects of teaching easier. While in class on Friday, my group and I spent time teaching one another about Evernote, Dropbox, Skype, and Diigo. Of the four, I am most interested in Skype. This is because I'm already familiar with and have used Skype before to keep in touch with friends long distance via video chatting. I do like the idea of being able to connect with people "face to face" without actually being in the same place. I think that video chatting can be very useful and I'm sure that many educators have found practical uses for it in their classrooms. I can see how it could come in handy if a teacher is sick or on vacation but still wishes to address the class. Additionally students could use it in the same way -- Skype with the teacher or other students in order to find out what homework, lecture, etc. they may have missed. I am sure there are other uses for teaching with Skype, but my usual creative flow of ideas seems to be in somewhat of a drought. Blame the weekend brain idleness, or the mounting monster of stress that culminates in the next week for the MACers. 

I really like the *idea* of using things like Evernote and Diigo, but I don't think I will. At least, not right away. I feel as though learning how to efficiently use these programs will take me more time than it would to simply do things the way I am accustomed to doing them. I know I may sound stuck in my ways. But truly, if these online tools aren't second-nature to me, then they will require I spend time learning how to use them properly rather than simply doing what I'm trying to do in the first place. Perhaps if I could see them at work in a classroom already and witness how they are made useful I would be more intrigued? 

I was responsible for learning about and teaching my group members about dropbox. I hope that they found the handout straightforward and helpful. I think in general our group had a good understanding and we worked cooperatively together. I think that Dropbox could eventually become a tool that I use regularly in my classroom, but as with Evernote and Diigo, I need more practice with it before I am sold on the idea. I think that it is a bit of a bummer that to share things that you put in your dropbox, the other person has to have a dropbox as well (unless you made a custom public URL). I like the idea of having access to all of the files you want regardless of having your home computer with you. That said, if I wanted access to a file later without bringing along my computer, my automatic response would be to email it to myself. This is still my go-to method to get these things stored somewhere I can access later. Until I become more acquainted and automatic with Dropbox, I won't be likely to get much usage out of it. Gotta teach an old dog new tricks, or something like that. 

In reference to the google reader segment of class, can I just say "HUH?" I was so overwhelmed with information by that point that I feel like I could really use another crash course. I didn't get much out of that quick intro because I was still trying to figure out how Evernote works. Introducing 5+ new online resources in a day is too much (at least for me). I can hardly keep the different sites straight, and now I have about 10 million usernames and passwords that I can't seem to sort out either. That was hyperbolic, but really. So much for organizing my online life... Ha. I do however really appreciate that we are being asked to learn about all of these different technology resources available to us as future educators. I would say that it is crucial to remain in the know on these matters, and to continue to be current on technology trends. There are many opportunities to make technology work for us in positive ways that really will facilitate our work. I guess if I have only 1 complaint then for Friday's class it would be that I wish we had been able to spend more time (i.e. one class period/item) exploring each of the different resources we discussed (Diigo, Evernote, Dropbox, Skype, Google Reader). I would want to be well versed in how they work and come away with concrete and practical strategies for how I could implement them in my history classroom. Unfortunately, this is not exactly the case. Gosh. I hate sounding so dang negative. Really not me. I must need bedtime.

On a totally different matter, I just want to say good luck to my comrades this week. Keep your chins up, because I see 3 school-less weeks just on the horizon. 
Shine on.

For any The Rapture fans out there, this one's my fav off their newest album. And if you don't like The Rapture...well, you should.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

weeble wobble

In 504 on Friday I was introduced to a new online resource that will be extremely for me to use when I am looking for a teaching job and become a teacher. Prior to this class I had never heard of, a fantastic website that allows you to create an entire profile online catered to your specific needs or interest. It allows you to create anything from a food blog to a business portfolio (for free!). 

Here's what I created during class:

I figure I'll go in and edit a few things to turn it into a digital professional portolio. I will be able to upload videos of myself teaching, both of my blogs, podcasts, photos, and virtually anything else I can think of that will contribute to a thorough portfolio. Right now what I have done to my page so far leaves much room for improvement and I'm looking forward to discovering the in's and out's of the weebly world. I am especially thinking that this tool will be especially useful for me when I am looking for a job post-graduation. I will be looking for work in states outside of Michigan (specifically Illinois), and I will be able to provide potential employers/school admin with my online portfolio so that can know more about me via the opportunity afforded by technology. 

I oughtn't neglect to mention how interesting I thought the other portion of class was, including the decoding/deciphering of symbols and the presentation about angry birds being used in a MAC alum's math class. His presentation was thoughtful and illustrated an interesting way to include video games in a way that engages students and helps them to learn math concepts. Though I respect and admire his strategies, I thought all in all that the most memorable part of the class time was creating the weebly account, but that is also probably partially because I don't give much attention to the idea of incorporating angry birds into my future history classroom (forgive me?).

And now, we've only 2 weeks left of SECMAC Summer term 2012. So let's do some business, people.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

go play a video game

I should probably preface this post by saying that I personally do not play any video games.
I've never owned a gaming device in my life.
I can't get into it and I truly don't care to.

That said, after reading the Gee article "Good Video Games and Good Learning," I can see the merits of his argument. Sure, giving kids video games is a great way to hone their focus on a particular task. Sure, they might really enjoy and care about their engagement in a game. Sure, they will improve literacy skills and technology skills if they work with video games. I see the positive aspects and how gaming can be educational. I do not want to discredit this fact. 

Now into what I really want to say:

I hate 'em. I really hate 'em. 

I have grown up in a generation that is so consumed by video games that it literally breaks down the possibility of maintaining relationships. I think it is a task done in isolation (aside from fellow online gamers), that is attention consuming and becomes all important. I'm sorry, but killing zombies is not the way that I want to get my education. Put down the controller and pick up a book. 

I don't really know what kind of video games I could or would ever implement in a future history classroom. The only thing I can think of is Oregon Trail -- that game we played in 4th grade that was an interactive computer game that allowed kids to travel the manifest destiny journey. I don't think I really learned much from that game. I think that the majority of the information I want my future students to learn won't be teachable with video games. I'd like to be (maybe) proven wrong. (Well, I never like to be wrong, but I like to expand my knowledge). Until I see a practical application for video games in learning history, I am not an advocate of their use. 

In an effort to keep this short & sweet, I'd like to offer a little song interpretation to close.

Lana del Rey's song "Video Games" talks about a boy and girl in a relationship, the girl expresses her love while her boy plays video games. His idea of fun. His biggest distraction. His favorite hobby. Not her, video games. It speaks to the isolation of our generation in video games -- connecting with technology trumps connecting with people. The meaning is lost and emotions are shallow. You can enjoy the pleasant irony of Lana's words below, in my song-of-the-post.

Cheers, gamers. oops! i mean MACers ;-)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

podcastin' son of a gun

Well well well,

I must say, I really enjoyed the activity we did for the first half of 504 class on Friday. I feel like I got a lot out of working with other people to design the soda ban lesson. Members of my group worked collaboratively to prepare a really well thought out plan that I would really actually attempt in my future history classroom. Overall I was pleased with what we did and the librarian was extremely helpful.

She told my group about a pathfinder resource that is created by the librarian or teacher that provides a list of possible resources a student can look to when doing a paper, project, etc. It would include links to different websites that the students could use to search for credible sources and other useful items like citation guidelines.

Also, I was fortunate in being in a group of smarties and hard workers to spend my class time with designing a killer lesson. booyah. 

If you had asked me a month ago if I would ever podcast, I would have said no way. But here I am sitting in the afterglow of my first podcast publication, actually feeling like I could make podcasts work for me in a classroom setting. I had one idea in particular that struck me. 

While in a future history classroom I would like to use podcasts as a way for the kids to create their own and give their own "fireside chat" a la FDR in the 1930s and 40s. I think that given enough thought I could come up with several other historical figures that I could ask them to podcast in their style. I could see this as a good method to help students put themselves in the shoes of historical figure and feel the past in a more memorable way. 

I am sure I will come up with even more ways I can make podcasts work for me in the classroom once I get a bit more experienced with them. I think the idea in general is a good one, I just don't particularly enjoy hearing my own voice. I don't know why, but I guess I'll have to get over that one quickly. 

Overall, I'd say Friday's 504 was a good class. useful. fun. engaging. informative. I approve ;) 

And now, song of the post:
Enjoy, fellow MACers. You guys are star shine and bubble gum. Until next time...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Banter on Bannings

“To prohibit or not to prohibit. That's not my saying but I love to break rules, rules rule. Just like Rufus.”
~ Oscar Wilde on Sigmund Freud 

Currently in Manhattan, Mayor Bloomberg is in the process of imposing a city-wide ban on the sale of large soda/high sugar beverages around local shops, theaters, cafes, etc. This issue affects every soda consuming resident in this huge city, and for this reason has been a controversial proposal.  The reasoning behind the ban proposal is the obesity problem here in the United States, with the assertion that consuming soda is to blame. It is this sort of legislation that changes the way that we as American citizens see our choices diminished as politicians mandate laws despite public disapproval. 

As a history teacher it is exactly this sort of topic that makes me so anxious to teach. I can think of a countless times throughout history when the ruling class, (or king, or president, or dictator, or chief, or general) imposes their will on the larger population. Incorporating current events and tying them to the past is exactly the sort of classroom activity that will bring historical events to life for my future students.

 If I wanted to design a lesson plan for the soda pop news story, I would start the lesson off with a brief greeting and overview of the topic much like given in the first paragraph of this post. 
Then I'd get the students engaged with the current event with this video:

I don't know about other people, but when I was in high school showing me short clips really served as an excellent way for me to give my full attention to a topic. I think this is an informative piece featuring Bloomberg himself, and clearly he is in defense of his own proposal. I would end the clip, and I would then like to open it up to class discussion of this topic and let the conversation carry on in an organic way wherein I ask the class to divide into two halves of the room. On one side of the room all the students who thought the ban was a good idea would sit, and those who did not would sit on the other. Then I would ask them to discuss among their groups for a couple minutes the main reasons why they chose to agree or disagree with the ban. Then, I would have the groups turn towards one another and begin a class debate. After both sides had made valid points (which exist for both affirmative/negative stances) and gotten involved with the topic, I would have the class come back together for my next portion of the lesson.

This is when I shift with the lesson and link this current soda ban proposal to topics in history. First, I would ask the class if anyone could think of a time in history when the government or ruler banned substances, resources, or materials from personal use? After getting (hopefully) a decent poll of responses, I would offer them this example:

Prohibition of the 1920s
I would start discussing the topic with the use of this political cartoon:

I think using this primary source from the prohibition era will allow them once again to receive further visual cues and regain focus on the topic. Also, the political cartoon is in fact a wonderful tool to practice interpretation skills on various sources. This skill is an absolute essential for historians. I will be teaching a historical context in which the students can relate the soda ban to, but also teaching them an overarching skill that I will want them to have mastered by the end of my course. That is, the skill to interpret various kinds of historical sources.

After asking them several questions about what they see in the political cartoon and what they think it means about how prohibition was received by US citizens in the 20s. I will have them draw comparisons between how people may react now to the soda ban. As a final class activity I will have them write me a 2 paragraph reflection at the end of the class, the first describing the soda ban in relation to the era of prohibition, and what trends exist in both of these events and the second paragraph would ask them to try and think of another current event that can be related to an event they know of in history. This will require the students to think about what they already know about history in a new way, relating it to their current world. 

Despite probably providing here only a rough outline of what I would actually like to do with a topic like this, I dare say I am getting long-winded. I could, however, expand this idea for a unit for at least a week, using different examples of governmental bannings in history (book bannings, religion banning, etc). There are many ways to make the soda ban a lens through which one can examine historical bans. Moreover, it also teaches the students about the hierarchy of society and how the governments' power plays out through history.

On a completely different topic, I love music, and this isn't my first blog. Below here is a link to my tumblr, if you're interested. As well,  I'm going to try and find a way to sync a spotify playlist on my page if possible so that when you pull up my page it automatically just starts playing. I'll have to figure that one out. 

Until I can figure out a way to get me some tunes goin' on here, I'll just go with a song-of-the-post type of deal.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

In the beginning

After the first day of class here at the University of Michigan, I found myself noting more than ever the tactics my new instructors were using to effectively convey information and engage my peers and myself. I must say that I have never been in an environment that is quite so reliant on elements of technology within the classroom. For example, every course I am enrolled in has it's own CTools site, wherein I am to submit my work and pull important resources such as syllabi and class readings. If for any reason, this CTools website were to entirely crash, the vast majority of my instructors would be frustrated, and at a complete disadvantage in having to find another method to disseminate necessary classroom materials. 

The emphasis on technology in the classroom only increases as the internet becomes that much more expansive and useful. I, an aspiring history teacher (an aspiring *AWESOME* history teacher), am committed to using technology in the classroom in a way that will bolster the retaining of immense knowledge. History is a tough subject to teach, no doubt. There is too much information for any one person to completely grasp -- the sheer nature of the study of history is, by itself, overwhelming. There is no "perfect" way to teach it. I have seen my instructors attempt to teach history in so many ways, and no two instructors have ever had the same methodology. It is my intention to find a way to integrate useful technological resources in the understanding of history. If I think about it, it seems ironic or something to try to use modern technology to teach about things that occurred years and years ago. That said, I feel somewhat lucky to have technological tools at my disposal because I believe they are crucial and beneficial. 

So, my ideas are pretty much simple. I don't claim to be some tech genius. I'm competent, but by no means am a person who can quickly make sense of new tech tools.  HOWEVER, I'd like to try new things that can be translated into historical learning. For example, I want to have an archive on a website such as picasa that I would store examples of visual learning. I will have the visual examples grouped into eras of time that represent the cultural movement. These pages will be things like "Renaissance Art", "Rococo", "Romanticism Art", "Surrealism", etc. I want to be able to have these resources like this available to my future students so that they have an idea of the way art reflects the social and political happenings of a given time period. I will also search for ways to do this same sort of thing with music. I want my students to have an understanding of the ways music changed over the years, and the way it reflects what was going on in that time. 

I am fully aware that I have way too much to learn about learning. Learning to teach, learning to be effective as an instructor, learning to create a teaching persona, learning to find relatable anecdotes for "dead" history, learning how to motivate the haters, learning to shape conceptual understanding vs. rote memorization, and also learning how to make technological resources a useful tool in aiding my future students. Technology will continue to be important in education, and increasingly so. I want to have a blog for my classes, where I can post pertinent or supplemental resources for students. I want my students to have an active role in this blog also, where they can ask questions, have discussions, and draw from when it is time to take a test or write a paper. 

In short, I'm anxious to see what Education 504 can show me. I have little doubt I will learn several ways I can incorporate technology in my instruction, and I genuinely look forward to this. Children now are raised in a society where technology is assumed. It is a standard. And honestly, it's just plain useful.