The world is a child's playground and always a new learning experience. For those teachers who work hard to give their classroom the world experience they will never forget, now is the time and the chance to do so. There are many global websites out there available through the Internet that enable a teacher to blast the boundaries of the classroom walls right open into a group effort with friends they may make for life. Out of many of the websites offered, two from my class list appealed to me more than the others. Primarily, I picked these two sites specifically because they offered collaboration projects with children of younger ages such as K-3rd grades, which is the range I hope to teach in once I have my degree.
Before I discuss the websites I chose, the synchronous tool I would use to communicate over these websites would be Tokbox. Tokbox is a free service that allows communication over live video. Live video discussion /collaboration would be a must to me for the children to get the full experience of working on a project with friends of different background and culture.
The http://www.globalschoolnet.org/ site offers a plethora of opportunities and projects with which to become involved, in a incomprehensible amount of places in which to collaborate on these projects. Bluezone was one of the sites I was particularly fond of due to the fact they had vocabulary words highlighted in blue in the write-ups on projects which makes a nice integration into curriculum in a classroom. Globalschoolnet has a great amount of science and health based projects that are rooted in recent media and global concerns in the news today. In many of these projects, students in the classrooms can become the problem-solvers of the concerns and I believe children are fully capable of possibly creating solutions that just may work! This website has many connections to offer around the globe, and I like that they offer a teacher account and a general account. The privacy on this site was impressive, as well. It would not allow any outside access into some of the existing projects unless you become a member. The security makes me feel as though it is a responsible site that can be trusted to collaborate and put a classroom's work upon.
The http://iearn.org website is another I would use for a collaboration project in my classroom. What I liked most about this site is it enables you to get in touch with classrooms as far, or near as you are looking to embark on a collaborative project. For example, I may want to work with a classroom within the same state, Pennsylvania; the site is set -up to locate other classrooms looking for projects in your area. They also have project locators by type of project or topic that you may seek, so the site is very user-friendly. The more global topics relate to some of the bigger news media stories on the national news- so they are topics the students would be used to hearing about on their own. Topics such as caring and sharing, good deeds, one day in the life, natural disasters, and environmental and social issues. The site also has student collaborative work that is constructed based upon the state educational standards.
Under my video section in my blog you will see the URL for http://wwwyoutube,com/watch?v=zj4d7LdDc3E , which takes you to a tutorial video that teaches you a song and technique for teaching a child how to properly hold a writing utensil. I am a Pre-k teacher who has been looking for a good method to teach this technique for quite awhile. I hope to remain in the Pre-K to Kindergarten age range when I begin teaching after graduation. This is a difficult skill for new writers to master, and definitely not a skill you force upon children until they begin showing you that they are ready to learn it. The more catchy and fun you can make learning new, difficult skills at this age, the better. So I was really excited to find this tutorial that I plan to use soon in the classroom I am teaching in currently. The second video I viewed, and found extremely interesting was a presentation given by Mr. John Seely Brown for Teaching 2.0 ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XOvQAdDFGMA) that was entitled "Doing More with Less." I was attracted to the title because as a Pre-K teacher we learn to make a living out of that very concept. However, what I thought the video was going to express, compared to what the actual content turned out to be, were very different. But I took away a great amount of good information that echoes the message of this class and all we have learned in it up through this point. Mr. Brown spoke about the importance of collaboration while learning to help students to internalize what they have learned. He pointed to the opportunities to collaborate over the Internet as being an essential tool to use in order to internalize learning and promote group discussions that add many different points of view and collective knowledge. He spoke about the shift of the Internet moving from posted knowledge to being a part of a collective group that discusses experiences, knowledge, and scenarios to enable others to join in that discussion and take away valuable information, even being a part of solutions. As a teacher, you tend to feel that you don't have time for "one more thing;" however, Mr. Brown helped me to see just how much better of a teacher I could be by applying the use of this technology in my classroom, and for my classroom by becoming a part of these discussions.
I was infuriated by an article that I read on the http://educationwonk.blogspot.com website through my RSS feed. It was a blog entitled "Note To U.S. Dept. of Ed: Improve Thyself." It reported on a presentation given by the Secretary of the Department of Education, Arne Duncan, speaking on a lapse of quality education amongst our colleges and universities to turn out quality teachers to educate out youth. Quite the contrary, in my experience at Mercyhurst, I feel I have been well-educated and that I have been made aware of the "realities" of the classroom before entering one. The "realities" I speak of is the lack of funding, support, and belief in our society that a child, first and foremost, must be held in a higher regard; moreover, our government's greatest mission is to pour resources into schools, cirriculums, and teacher salaries in order to promote good teaching. I have been continuously appalled by the accounts of missing teachers that used to be in place when I was in school due to the lack of funding such as librarians, reading teachers, phys ed, and many more. Just last week my Intermediate Lit teacher told us that there are no reading teachers in the middle schools and that the burden of teaching the fundamentals of reading and comprehension has been placed on the content teachers. I thought I was going to completely lose my mind. It's no wonder student's abilities are falling down and that there are more children falling under the spectrum of Special Education. Children cannot be expected to perform in a skill they are not given the rudimentary basics and practice in, nor should a content teacher be forced to teach something they did not prepare to teach in their college training.
The Department of Education certainly needs to take a closer look at their erroneous beliefs and stop putting the blame on student failure on overworked, underpaid, and unappreciated teachers and the institutions they hailed from. I haven't even addressed some other very relevant causes to student failure that Arne Duncan blatantly ignored. The expectations of teachers in our current education system are growing in tasks, assessments, notes on every child, meetings, incorporatingIEP's in with regular ed instruction, counseling of parents and students, not to mention the role of disciplinarian on very little support of many student guardians and parents. Let's add to that the fact that our society believes in Pennsylvania that a child and school's abilities are measured by an assessment test with no explanation to what they have based their stats against to evaluate achievement. Yet we will take class instruction and practice of learning concepts away to drill students to be able to answer and take these tests-creating ridiculous amounts of pressure on a population of children that already experience more anxiety in their lives than I ever dreamed of in all of my 36 years of life.
Of course, let us discuss the fact that school buildings are crumbling across the Untied States, particularly in Pennsylvania. Children are being forced to learn in less than acceptable learning environments and atmospheres. Lack of supplies, especially computer and Internet access plagues our nation- yet we are concerned about making student's computer savvy. Really? How do we accomplish that with a lack of computers and positive learning environments.
Arne Duncan and the Department of Education, as well as our society, need to take a long, hard look at the priorities. Children must come first if we ever expect future generations to succeed. Stop playing the blame game and begin fueling the universities and public education in order for teachers to be able to educate.
One of the groups I searched under the Ning social networking sight was EdubloggerWorld (http://edubloggerworld.ning.com/?xg_source=ningcom), and as I watched the introductory video I felt very welcomed. It was exciting to hear from other educators that seemed as excited about educating children as I am. I have found great support through the network of teachers I have as friends, as well as they have become great resources and idea sounding boards. The friends I have made and the ideas we have come up with and implemented together have been very successful. So the thought of connecting with other educators around the world blows my mind to the potential projects, prospectives, ideas, and supports I would be able to connect with for my own growth and betterment, and definitely for that of the students! I would be able to communicate, and possibly share with classrooms, from around the world. A member can participate in conferences without ever leaving your home or workplace. It is a community that would understand the struggles of student's and teachers, therefore, they would be understanding and speak the same universal, educational language. We are all on the same team and working toward the same goal- fighting for children's access to quality education. We could also share resource information and programs that offer free help or resources. We could create programs and grants that may close in the gaps across the world.
A learner is like a butterfly these days, going through a hyper-fast growth process from caterpillar to butterfly stage. Due to collectivism that has been created by information technology, learners do not have to go through the arduous, time consuming process of searching through physical paper materials, or making appointments to "see" an expert or health care professional to gain knowledge on a concern or question. These days answers to a learner's questions are a few clicks away on the internet's information highway. It takes much less time to connect to experts and receive answers to questions through email, blogs, and social network sites. Gaining knowledge on a particular topic for a paper or presentation in a classroom takes much less time to acquire; due to the fact one no longer has to spend time going through the process of finding materials where the information is located, then going out to seek those materials, get to a spot to either copy the materials or sit in a library going through all these materials one by one to pull pertinent information. Learners can simply type in a query and on a computer screen comes more information on a topic than a learner could ever imagine to find , or have access to in one sitting going through the old process. They have the capability of comparing and contrasting information in front of their eyes immediately, no more waiting on information from library loans, which sometimes would take weeks to days to receive. There is less time spent copying materials so the learner does not have to go through the process of finding them again, now they are constantly a click away at their fingertips. So the caterpillar is growing into a knowledgeable butterfly at a rate that far exceeds the abilities of a student's in past years.
In the article written by George Siemens, he speaks about how "formal education no longer comprises the majority of learning. Learning now occurs in a variety of ways-through communities of practice, personal networks, and through completion of work-related tasks." (http://www.itdl.org/Journal/Jan_05/article01.htm) Retrieved March 19, 2010. Children and adults have the benefits of expanding and making more connections in the knowledge they gain far beyond a classroom direct instruction and the creation of assignments, which still address only one side or aspect of the knowledge. Currently, learners can take the knowledge, open up a forum to get opinions, experiences, and other arguments and sides to issues over the Internet- it can be likened to putting all the information on a rubics cube and everytime the learner flips or twists the cube they gain a new aspect to a concept. This idea is further expressed in the video posted by Siemens where he talks about the 'actual act of simply expressing ourselves with other people on the knowledge we have expands our ability to further our own insights on a subject and gain new perspectives and ideas to add to our knowledge.' (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpbkdeyFxZw&feature=PlayList&p=3E43054A8703F57A&index=4) Retrieved March 19,2010. Siemen's idea is that learners gain more from discussing knowledge with other people because we are social beings and we enjoy learning through dialog, rather than being talked at on a subject. The entire experience of having a discussion with someone is more memorable to learners and adds so much more to the learning process.
Both of these points change the classroom for teachers, whether traditional teachers realize this or not. Children are not as sheltered in their knowledge as they used to be- the Internet adds a whole new aspect to learning than traditional book learning. Learning can truly become a whole experience, even if they can't physically go into the Congo to experience it, they can "virtually" be there; then they can share their questions and experiences on the Internet and internalize the experience, thus experiencing a deeper learning process. This type of teaching can make even subjects that may not be as appealing to learners, more interesting and maybe more memorable.
1.) Children can use it as a support network socially as a part of a community networking idea in class. Children can post blogs about questions they are having
in general with growing pains and life, then spur a discussion on the issues amongst their classmates. The teacher would need to set this up in the classroom with firm guidelines and boundaries. Teachers would also need to remind students that a class blog is a safezone and their peers must be treated with respect and empathy. Subjects would have to be appropriate and students would need to be reminded that adults are monitoring this interaction. But children, especially adolescents, sometimes need to be heard by peers that can relate and understand. this could be a great way to seek support and learn to be a supporter in a classroom, community environment.
2.) It would be a great way to post a poetry or story writing assignment, to where the students would have to post a poem or story, then also read a certain number of their peer's assignments and comment on them. In the state standards for the elemen
tary grades one of the standard goals is to get children to comment on different art forms and be able to express themselves through different creative arts as well. This would be a great venue and media outlet to support those goals.
3.) The thought of having a teacher post a research assignment for any subject class and have the students do research and post their findings and list their resources on a blog came across my mind. Then I could see the teacher pulling together the research facts and discussing them in a wrap up on a final blog. This could be opened up as a collaborative effort between two different classrooms, schools, or school collaboration from another country. It would be interesting to see the results.