Sunday, February 6, 2011

Let's Talk About It...

Another added benefit to using social media in the classroom setting would be the ability to hold ongoing conversations about material outside of class. We all know that as we process information, new thoughts can come up about a text. This does not always necessarily happen while class is in session. Having a discussion forum online allows students to engage with the curriculum on their own time and at their own pace. This forum also will go a long way to increase the sense of community among class members and the teacher.

Students who may not be comfortable with sharing their ideas in class will also be given the opportunity to voice their opinions in a less threatening environment when they are allowed to post online. As the student becomes comfortable in doing that, they may begin to feel more able to do the same in the classroom as they have developed those communicative relationships with the group outside of class.

One of the drawbacks I have seen with this strategy is that the teacher must spend time teaching students how to engage in meaningful online discussions. Without guidance, students tend to post simple one sentence responses instead of really engaging their peers in deep, analytical conversation.

Because I am not comfortable with using Facebook or Twitter with students, I have utilized this same strategy but on our school web portal. I have started online discussion groups that operate similar to social media, but with a strictly academic focus instead of the social side that Facebook and Twitter offer that is not a necessity for the academic learning students are required to do.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Words...

One of the benefits of incorporating sites like Facebook and Twitter into the educational setting is requiring students to narrow down their thoughts and focus on main ideas. One of the challenges in ELA is getting students to recognize the difference between main ideas and insignificant details. Using a word limit such as what is used on either of these social media sites can really focus students on synthesizing material instead of retelling an entire text.

Again, as I have many concerns with teachers being associated with students on these sites, this is something that can be easily adapted into the curriculum without having to go online. Having students summarize in 140 words or less is a simple requirement that can be added to any assignment. I can see this working well in collaborative groups as group members can help each other in identifying the big ideas and weeding through excess information to reduce the word count. This would be a great challenge as I know when I exceed the word limit on Facebook, I really have to think about what it is I'm trying to say, and what the best way to get that point across is. This strategy would also create automatic buy-in as students respond well to challenges, and this brings almost a game-like element to the work.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Social Media in Education

Well, social media and education is quite a touchy subject these days among teachers, and especially for me. I strongly believe that teachers and students should not have contact on social media sites such as Facebook until the profession clearly defines the expectations and consequences for such interactions. For example, what about the mandated reporter role of teachers? Does that extend onto sites like Facebook? Am I responsible for policing students' profile pages during my free time to ensure proper behavior? Until we have a clearer picture and understanding of these issues, I will not be engaging students using social media.

Having said that, I think you can still utilize some of the concepts to enhance student learning. For example, I have always wanted to create an assignment for analyzing characters in which students would create a Facebook profile page for them. I am sure that there are other teachers out there who have done this type of activity before. This would tap into the students' knowledge of social media sites, yet also require higher level thinking. What status updates would the character post throughout the story? Who would their friends be? This could all be done on a paper graphic organizer designed to look like a Facebook page instead of having to actually be connected online with the site. This would provide students a chance to use what they are familiar with while also protecting teachers from any legality issues that social media sites may bring up.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Multimedia in Education

In reading the Roblyer text, I was immediately drawn to the idea of interactive storybooks for students. As a Language Arts teacher, I know that students do not read enough. Putting text online with fun graphics is a great way to encourage them to read more and interact with the text. When students are using books checked out from the school library, I often understand their frustration about reading. They can't do anything with the text because they don't own it. We all know as adults that it greatly helps when you can write on, highlight, write down questions, etc. as you read. These interactive stories would allow students to have a similar experience in a format they are familiar with.

This tool would benefit student learning because it would encourage them to go beyond just reading words. Engagement levels would increase, therefore allowing you to challenge the student to work with higher level thinking questions. They would also allow students to visualize the story based on the graphics which can lead to increased understanding.

On the downside, some of the stories come with games that do not always appear to be of educational value. Students may get distracted with the games and fun pictures and not really work through the elements of the story such as plot and character development. Another concern is the effect on student's eyes. At the middle school level, many students experience vision problems. Perhaps having them in front of a computer screen is not beneficial to them, especially when taking into account how much time they may spend on a computer at home.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

We Now Interrupt This Regularly Scheduled Programming...

Remember me? The incredibly chic girl with an addiction to all things Ina? Well, what can I say? It's been a hectic school year to say the least. Hence the hiatus. Wait, what? Alliteration? Yeah. I've still got it.

My meals have not been incredibly exciting lately as a result. Can we say homemade quesadillas and tacos like there's no tomorrow? I will share some of the new holiday things I tried from Ina's latest cookbook as well as some tried and true favorites soon (Um, hello cheese straws, you evil temptress you.)

For now though, it's time to talk business. I'm asking for a special favor. Because things are crazy with me right now, I am looking to use this blog to fulfill a class requirement for my Masters degree. I need to do just a few posts to discuss technology uses in education. I wavered back and forth whether to use this blog, and even though it sounds like a small thing to start another blog entirely to do this, it's just one more stress I don't need. Plus, if I post it here, I'll feel bad, so it will force me to make it up to my chic chefs. Gotta love some good old-fashioned guilt, right? So hopefully, you'll bear with me. Maybe I'll even try to sneak in some cooking/food related items in my posts. Add some "flavor" to them if you will. "Spicing up" technology to motivate students. Hee hee hee. Get it?

Well, from me and my favorite Littlest Sous Chef, Gusti, it's nice to be back!

Dang! Cheese Straws! Okay, I'll eat 12. But JUST 12...