Tag Archives: 427

Putting the logy in technology

Technology for the sake of technology is not enough.

 

Having four dimensional touch pads a la Minority Report won’t make our students more engaged in learning (perhaps for about five minutes). Technology does have its place. It’s a tool like any other. A crayon can be a tool for art – but it isn’t art. With 26 letters and some punctuation, the entirety of possible human knowledge is available. It’s something to think about.

 

With all the tools, from pencil to spectrometer, they aide, facilitate and explore learning, but it isn’t learning itself. Recently I made a little digital story to help illustrate something better than simply reading or writing it. I matched music, pictures, voice, and motion to capture the feel of the piece of writing. I even added some homemade sound effects. While I had envisioned some moody, ethereal piece about climbing a mountain, it sounded completely hokey and had people laughing. It wasn’t the effect I was going for, but that means I need to learn more about how to convey the message I want to. The tools are there, learning how to use them is one thing. Learning how to utilize them is a complete other thing.

 

 

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Dream Classroom

In my fifth grade classroom we had a Super Nintendo in the back of the classroom to be used at lunch (or on certain days when you finished your assignments early). At that point I started becoming aware of what I’d like to have in my classroom. My ten year old self would have liked a moat (and accompanying waterslide for easy access to the outside) but the more and more I think about it, as I’m on the path to becoming a teacher, there’s so much more than fun and games.

 

I love writing, and my setup at home (sort of in transition right now, as I don’t have space for a desk anymore) has to be conducive to writing. I like having my window open and the blinds drawn so I can ponder off into the streets and nature at the same time (sky and trees). I like playing classical music (sometimes movie scores to get me in certain moods, my favorite is from Last of the Mohicans) that can really get my fingers moving. I’m listening to it as I write this – I have been out of writing for it seems like weeks, and now I need to ramp it up. If I have the right feel, the creative juices can flow. I spoke with my cousin who is in the Masters program of Information Technology at UW and he had worked on a project on environments (or settings) for creative outlets. Everyone had different environments. Some wanted to be in a busy coffee shop, others in tranquil nature. Some had desks complete with everything they’ll need. Some needed silence. Some needed music.

 

Thinking now, about my classroom of the future, my students will have different needs and wants, and most certainly different environments they will excel in. I know I work great with classical music blasting as get in the zone, but not everyone is me. I’d like a classroom where students can move about and choose where they want to work – depending on what they’re doing. If they need to work alone or in groups, there needs to be space for that. My ideal room will be asymmetrical. It will have the tools they need, the space they need. The windows will be open, but there will also be a corner for focus. Music could be playing quietly somewhere.

 

There could also be a Super Nintendo in the corner. It will be an artifact by then, but it may find some use.

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Faux Multicultarism

Faux multiculturalism harkens me back to television shows and their ‘token’ characters. Using Star Trek as an example, and its supposed futuristic society, but it’s still just ‘one of everything with a white man in charge,’ though, to be fair, there’s television series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine where the captain, Sisko, is a black man. Still, for the majority of media, television and film, white characters dominate. It seems to be getting better (though I can’t back this up with evidence) that television shows frequent nonwhite characters and other gender and sexual identities. Though I digress, it’s something valid to look at because our future students will be exposed to these characters and relationships (whether power, partner or otherwise) from an early age, they will bring it in to the classroom.

It’s not just media, because as teachers, we can control (to an extent) what we can teach. The histories of each student’s culture must be as important as the curriculum’s western viewpoint. If the students’ can connect to their history, what’s in their blood, they can bring a level of engagement which wouldn’t otherwise be possible.

I went to school in an affluent neighborhood. While my classroom wasn’t very diverse, I still believe we received a decent multicultural education despite the demographics. I think that’s also really important. Not always will classrooms be as diverse as some schools, but there should still be an opportunity to introduce new cultures into classroom even if there aren’t students from that culture.

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Building a Community

Community, I think, can be achieved by having a close rapport with the students and amongst themselves. I know this to be a huge challenge. I remember substitute teachers who never were able to get students to do anything, let alone learn something. I had other substitutes who could get us laugh and get talking, but I don’t think we were ever engaged to learn, but we definitely had a rapport. But a classroom community isn’t just about learning, it’s about a safe environment for students to trust each other, to resolve conflicts, to be encouraged, to try new things, and soon learning will come.

Everyone must be involved in a community for it to be functioning. If someone is left out or if it diminishes the moment they leave the classroom it has failed. Because of that, community building is an ongoing process. There has to be give and take. Students have to give compliments – and also be able to receive them.

There are always ways to build communities. It can be through ice breaker games where students have to learn about each other, especially someone different from themselves or the friends that they already have. With overcrowded classrooms, the idea of the ‘student of the week’ would have to spread out over the entire year, and I’m not even sure if every student would be able to participate. Perhaps students of the week might be more apt or other more creative ways that either my students or I can come up with. When students can turn to each other in times of need I believe that is one sign of success.

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Pros of the Pros

Professionalism is easy to distinguish in some careers – by their dress, their voice, their standards. I’ve had as many types of teachers as I’ve had teachers. The different doctors I’ve seen over the years have been very similar in demeanor (even in Korea, though that’s another story of the circumstances of needing to see a doctor). Given the achievements of the Korean students, I expected a certain professionalism among their teachers I saw in, well, other professions. What I saw, though, was not unlike teachers in America. One teacher was highly focused on rigid memorization. Another used games constantly while another used role play. One teacher used projects, another used discipline. The results varied as widely as the teachers – certain students would react better to a certain method (I’ll have to explore this in a whole other post). The problem lands on the students, as the teacher’s have their own preferences. Yes, all the teachers (in Korea or otherwise) get their bachelors, masters or beyond, but when they’re in the classroom they react as how they always would.

 

Since people are different, they’ll treat children differently based on their own preferences, culture or otherwise. Some children will be taught, some will learn science, some will learn history, but something or someone is always left behind (this isn’t about that other ‘left behind’ act). As in other professions, teachers have to work together to ensure methods and standards in the role of being a teacher. It shouldn’t be left up to the district, or people who never were teachers, but teachers themselves setting the standard and controlling the standard. It’ll start small, but it’ll grow. I hope it includes tweed jackets.

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