Mrs. T\’s Weblog

Google Docs is an excellent web based application that allows you to create documents, presentations, and spreadsheets online and then they can be accessed and edited from anywhere.  Some of the nice features within GoogleDocs are that you can decide who is allowed to view your work, who is allowed to edit your work, and the programs are very similar to Word, Excel, and Powerpoint, so they are pretty easy to learn how to use. 

I would recommend GoogleDocs to students who may have to collaborate on a project or paper for class.  A lot of teachers assign groups to write a single paper and then group members divide up the paper among themselves.  If students used GoogleDocs then they could all have access to one document and make their additions and corrections in the same place.  This prevents there being many different versions of the same artifact out there.  It also saves students from having to worry about flash drives and/or emailing files to themselves if they are working from different locations.  I think about students whose parents are divorced and may be going back and forth between houses.  If they don’t have their own computer to take with them back and forth, then they could use GoogleDocs to complete their papers, presentations, etc. and access it from anywhere!

My vision of the world in 2020 is a place that could be even more fast-paced than it is now.  I see technology playing an exceedingly important role in our lives – and because of the instantaneousness of technology, we’re likely to be busier, yet more engaged in the world around us.  These changes will affect education because I think that the school day will cease to be the 7 hour day that it is now and take on more of a 24/7 feel, where students are constantly interacting and learning even outside of school walls.  Perhaps the school day will even become shortened, with more opportunities for learning outside of the school doors.  I also think (and hope!) that school will become more personalized for students instead of so test-focused.  As we see in the real world there are so many different opportunities for using one’s skills that we should not all be tied down to the same “surface” knowledge that is tested on many state exams.  Instead we should be judged on our creativity, innovativeness, ability to synthesize information, ability to communicate via various modalities, and our ability to learn from a variety of sources and methods. 

If education begins to change in such a way that incorporates technology to a great extent, then our world will be greatly affected because we will have more students engaging with more people around the world.  Hopefully students’ knowledge, understanding, tolerance, and appreciation of other cultures and lifestyles will increase as they become aware of differences and understand more deeply how these differences come about and are meaningful to those who possess them.  Hopefully our connectedness will create a world that feels more united and less divided, one that is more focused on contributing and sharing and less on possessing. 

My choices in the classroom will affect others because I will play a big part in deciding the extent to which my students have access to technology and the way in which they use it for educational purposes.  By not keeping up to date with what is out there for students’ benefit, I am doing my students a disservice and not adequately preparing them to enter the workforce and the “real world.”  Just from completing this course my eyes have been opened to all that is out there for my students and I feel a real responsibility to keep up with the latest technologies and their applications to teaching.  Before I took this course, I knew that the internet had a lot to offer students and teachers, but I never really grasped – nor felt the need to grasp – all that was out there.  After learning more in depth about wikispaces, blogs, podcasts, RSS feeds, and Flickr, I see that I can incorporate these tools into my classroom in ways that will deepen students’ understanding of content and allow them to be more engaged in their learning.  I feel motivated to use these tools and eager to discover new tools that can enhance learning and teach my students skills needed for the 21st century.  At the same time, I still feel overwhelmed (much as I did at the beginning of the course)  – although for slightly different reasons.  At the beginning of the couse, I was overwhelmed because I knew there was a lot of technology out there and I wasn’t confident in my ability to use it.  Now I feel overwhelmed because I took so much from this course (and I know there’s so much more out there to use) – and the perfectionist in me wants to be able to “find it all” and “use it all immediately.”  While I realize this is unrealistic, it still leaves me feeling overwhelmed (yet excited) to implement any of the new tools in my classroom.  I will be creating opportunities for my students to learn in new and different ways and providing them with some experience using online tools (so that hopefully they approach these tools with less anxiety and more confidence and expertise).

As far as how teaching in 2020 will be different than it is today, I think the biggest difference is that teachers will take on much more of a facilitator role instead of an authority role.  We will be responsible for guiding our students in the right direction, but our students will be responsible for the learning, analysis, and collaboration that should be taking place in education.  To keep up, teachers will have to remain technologically savvy (much moreso than they are right now), and I think the gap between those teachers who use technology a lot and those who still have trouble using a word processor will diminish.  However, this will only happen if our schools provide us with opportunities to learn about what tools are out there (or if as teachers we are self-motivated to stay on top of the new technology as it becomes available).  Hopefully our districts will respond to our changing world and increase our access to technology in our classroom and for our students.  I know change is a slow process, but without responding to advances in technology, we will be leaving our students ill-prepared to live and work in the world around them.

Overall, I think that Web2.0 has already drastically affected education, and the potential for even more advanced and interactive technology is amazing!  I recently learned about a new idea in technology called Siftables.  You can see a video of the technology at the following site: .  What is crazy to me is how these “siftables” could be the face of technology in the future – they were so easy to use , yet how they worked seemed so confusing to me.   This brings me to my last point about how technology will be in 2020 – even MORE user-friendly.  While the programs get more and more advanced, the ability for the public to use them gets easier and easier, and I think this is one of the most amazing things about technology!  I remember learning to make a webpage in high school and all of the computer/programming knowledge that we needed just to insert a link into the page!  In the future, new programs will be created to meet our every need (and even our needs that we don’t know we have yet!).   We will need to educate intelligent designers of such technology so that it can continue to be created in such a way that it is easily accessible and usable to the public!

One of the big shifts noted by Will Richardson that affects me the most is the idea of the Web as a Notebook.  He points out that we can use the web to organize information we find relevant and return to it easily at our convenience.  The ability to collect information and store it this way is a big change from the filing cabinets of the past!  Although this shift hasn’t affected my teaching practice too greatly so far (I have filing cabinets packed full of resources), I hope to slowly digitize and organize a lot of my teaching materials online so that my students and I have access to them 24/7.  Creating an electronic syllabus and calendar where I can post assignments and notes would really help students who miss school to be able to catch up (and it would hope those who need to plan ahead to determine what we’ll be covering in class).  Additionally, it prevents students from claiming to have lost papers because they’d have access to the work online.  Another way the Web as Notebook could benefit me and my students is through the use of podcasts and screencasts to explain material to students.  I think it would be outstanding to be able to create short podcasts about specific topics and have them availiable to my students when they are working at home.  (It’d be even better to have my students create the podcasts for their peers!).

As far as blogging and wikipedia go, I’d really like to be able to utilize these resources as “notebooks” for my class, yet I am having a hard time because a lot of what I’d like to do requires the ability to input “math type” (such as radials and fractions, etc.) and these sites are limited in that aspect.  However, I still feel that I could use them in some situations and that my students would benefit from having their ideas gathered together for reference and collaboration. 

My views of technology have changed a lot since beginning this course.  The first big change is that I am much less fearful of the technology because I have a much better understanding of what’s out there and how to use it!  Secondly, I feel that there are many opportunities where a math curriculum can be enhanced using these online tools (whereas in the past I often got caught up on the inability to enter equations, etc. online).  Although I still am bothered by this, I see that there are many more possibilities out there than I realized and that I can still enhance my students’ learning by incorporating technology into what I do.

As I mentioned above I can use technology to facilitate the big shift of the Web as Notebook in my classroom by digitizing my notes, creating a wikispace where I can post the syllabus, calendar, and assignments, using blogging to have my students comment on ideas from class and seek clarification from others, and using wikispaces to have students collaborate with peers on more real-life centered math projects.

The idea of a paperless classroom would greatly change my role as a teacher because I rely heavliy on paper right now in my teaching.  I’m not sure that a math classroom would be the best place for a paperless class because a lot of work is still done by hand (and cannot easily be inputed into a computer without software like LaTeX or Equation Editor).  On the other hand, a lot of what we teach students to do by hand (like solve equations) can be done graphically using Ti83 calculators.  This saves the pencil and paper work and instead presents the solutions to students in graphical form.  T183 and more advanced calculators offer whole new methods for solving and approaching problems (with just as much or more accuracy than what is done by hand or when using the more traditional algebraic methods).   Additionally, teaching concepts via manipulatives (which could be found/created online) would make concepts like FOILING and combining like terms take on a new shape for students. 

Creating a paperless space would change my role as a teacher because I would likely have to present the material in a “bigger picture” type way or in new and different ways from what I do now.  We’d have to spend a lot more time analyzing one particular problem instead of solving many problems of the same type.  This would probably be a good thing for the students, although I wonder if they would lose some of their algebraic knowledge with this approach.  As a trade-off, though, they would probably heighten their problem solving and communication skills and be much more likely to solve complex problems because they’d taken the time to analyze them more deeply. 

I think it’d be much harder for a math teacher to measure learning in a paperless classroom because we’re used to pencil and paper tests where students show work and solve many problems.  The whole idea of assessment would have to change from one of repeating a set of procedures in order to solve a problem to analyzing the structure of  problems (yet still providing solutions).   As I mentioned above in the calculator discussion, learning would also change because students would see problems from a different perspective (possibly heightening their understanding of what can sometimes look like very complex, meaningless algebra).

I think a completely paperless space would make it harder to create a learning network (but this may only be true in mathematics).  Forgive me for repeating myself, but the inability to easily represent exponents, fractions, etc. online  makes having a paperless space impractical.  Additiionally it’s more difficult to “show work” if we have to enter our math problems and explanations online (in a linear format) because we often are crossing things out and doing work “on the side” as part of the problem being solved.  Until there is a way to “write” on the computer screen and save what we write online, I think a paperless math classroom would be a bad idea.  We’d be limited in our ability to network with one another because we’d be missing some of the key pieces to the puzzle by not having paper where we can write out our work.  On the other hand, technology itself allows for a much stronger learning network (even in a math classroom) because we can extend what we do, comment on each other’s ideas, and reference good websites and interactive materials that would aid in learning. 

I do think that online textbooks, manipulatives, graphers, and other resources make the math classroom more conducive to being a less paperfilled space, and I would love to be able to digitize my notes and assignments.  Additionally, the use of a SmartBoard does allow you to save what you write on the screen in file format, and this would be a good way to begin to create a paperless classroom (since the smartboard technology allows us to enter the information by hand – thus we can illustrate our exponents and fractions and radicals easily).

At this time I think the technology out there still has limitations that prevent the math classroom from becoming a paperless space; however, I think in the future it may just as easily be able to be converted into a paperless space as other subject areas.  Beshkin’s article  in the Columbia University Record certainly makes me eager for that day!

Merit Pay Blogical Discussion Summary
Over the past week, we’ve talked as a group about whether merit pay for teachers is a valid idea. 

The major argument made for merit based pay was:
1) Many teachers are just “punching the clock” waiting to be finished, and merit pay may motivate them to better their teaching.
Some of the arguments against merit based pay were:
1) A lot of student performance is out of teachers’ control and often more dependent on students’ desire to learn
2) Teachers don’t enter the field “for the money.”  They usually have a different motivation (like positively impacting students’ lives)
3) Teachers often can’t control the students they are given to teach.  Some teachers teach low-level students all day and these students are much less likely to perform well and be motivated to succeed.  Until we can pick our students, we shouldn’t be judged on how well they do.
4) Different districts have different types of students, some of whom have great resources and families that value education and others that don’t.  Again, working in districts like these would probably offer almost entirely different experiences and therefore teachers in each environment shouldn’t be judged along the same guidelines.
5) Because we all teach in different situations and with different supports, we cannot all be judged on the same criteria.

Alternatives for teacher pay given were:
1) Offer all teachers equal (higher) pay.  This would attract the best candidates to the profession.
2) Offer teachers extra pay for taking on extra duties or offering to teach extra or more challenging classes

Other interesting thoughts were:
1) To improve teacher performance, eliminate the concept of tenure so that teachers no longer feel protected enough that they become apathetic about doing their job.
2) Why not pay the STUDENTS for their performance:) That might get their attention and spark some motivation!
3) Evaluations of merit would need to be based not only on tests (quantitative analysis), but on evaluations, observations, feedback, and other qualitative methods. 

Overall, the general consensus is that we as teachers enter into the field for many reasons – none of which involve money.   We are trying to positively impact the lives of the next generation, and although we’re all faced with different circumstances and student populations, we all have these same goals🙂

Although I argued on the side against connectivism, I agree (for the most part) with the argument made by those on the “pro” side about how connectivism supports our students.  (I think the key word here, though, is that it supports their learning). 

The authors stated:
“The student creates varied and widespread learning networks via technology that will ultimately lead to their own success and lifelong learning. It is through these network connections that a student will access the latest knowledge. The student doesn’t just look toward the teacher as the sole possessor and disseminator of knowledge anymore. The student must instead look his peers and the wide array of technological sources of knowledge. Knowledge in the technological era that we live in is far too fluid and changing to be able to possess all of it at once. The student must constantly network in order to attain and access the information that is needed, evaluate the information, and support his current knowledge. This is the ultimate in student centered learning.”

I think that it is definitely true that network creation will enable lifelong learning for our students and that we all need to continue to network throughout our lives to stay on top of the latest news, ideas, and information.  Yes, teachers and textbooks are no longer the only primary sources of information, although I think that teachers still play a very important role in students’ learning of information and learning how to evaluate information.

While I also agree that knowledge is “fluid” and that we cannot possess it all at once, this has always been the case – it’s just that with technological developments and increasing opportunities to make connections, we are more likely to be able to quickly access greater amounts of information.  I think we need to be careful not to go so far as to believe that as long as we  can find the answers “out there” there is no reason to do any learning (in the traditional way).  I think a good balance of traditional learning and learning via networks is required and that there is still a place for learning and retaining information. 

Connectivism may give students more outlets for learning, but the learning itself still must take place.  Additionally, there is a lot of information out there that is factual and not so fluid, I think it’s the interpretations of the information and its applications that are fluid.

My experience of connecting with another educator (Sharon) through Skype was pretty exciting for many reasons.  For one, it was nice to be able to communicate and get an immediate response (much like with instant messager), instead of having to wait for a response (as would be the case with email, blog discussions, wiki postings, etc.).  You are both there, in real time, communicating!  Although I couldn’t get my mic to work, she was able to get hers working and so it was also cool to hear her voice (even though she couldn’t hear me talking back).  Additionally, I’d think that seeing the person you are communicating with would also add a whole other dimension to the Skype conversation.  In some cases, this might make those communicating more comfortable with one another because they can see each other, but in other cases, it might make those communicating more nervous (especially if they are strangers) because you are looking at someone you don’t know and you may be shy or nervous until you get comfortable in the conversation.

My husband also uses Skype and his mic does work so I’ve gotten to witness him talking to another teacher through Skype.  He has another teacher friend who has a camera, so they can talk and see each other.  Both modes of communication are very fun to witness!

I think one cool way to use Skype in the future would be to have my students connect with workers in our community who may be using the math skills that we’re learning about in class.  We could communicate directly with them and they could explain to us how the math we are learning relates directly to their career.

It would also be neat to find other teachers through Skype and talk to them about how they teach, any new projects or ideas they have, etc.  The 1-1 connection that is permitted through Skype allows for a much deeper interaction that could really benefit teachers. 

By using the Skype technology I hope to gain one more way to make connections and learn from others.  I also hope to show my students the possibilities that are out there for them that can allow them to keep in touch with those they already know and to meet others and collaborate using this medium.  Skype would be a great networking tool for those who may be seeking jobs or for those whose jobs require them to work with people in different cities and states.