Monday, April 27, 2009

I visited Brian Benzinger's article on line, which was suggested by Dr. Burgos. This article contained some great ideas for how to incorporate technology into classrooms of all types, ranging from young students to graduates in higher education. What was so interesting about this article was that it contained many testimonials from veteran teachers, novice teachers and students, discussing what specific aspects of the technology were helpfu. I loved the idea of having a student observe the dissecting of a frog, for example, or visiting a location thousands of miles away.

Benzinger also discusses the value of sites such as Wikipedia and Youtube, which are often filtered out by school districts, teachers and administrators. I admit that I am guilty of this offense, as well, following the common misconception that these sites are harmful than helpful. However, Benzinger discusses the importance of teaching our students how to be discriminating consumers of these sites, assessing appropropriate and inappropriate material with intelligence and caution. The far easier tactic is to merely make many websites off limits, but we are also limiting our students' access to potentially valuable information. This train of thought has made me realize that it's more important to teach a student how to navigate the web with caution and knowledge than to simply say "don't go there" and I'll make sure that you don't by limiting your access. We are not raising a generation of critical thinkers, but rather, of passive participants.

This article was informative and interesting to read. For example, I'm viewing Wikipedia in a different light. Although I've used it in the past as a resource, I would certainly NEVER admit to it (ha ha). My dirty little secret is now out in the open!

Monday, April 13, 2009

global cooperation project

As an instructor in higher ed teacher prep programs, I am always looking for innovative but authentic ways to infuse curriculum with cultural diversity. With the explosion of the web 2.0, there are so many more opportunities for exposure to different cultures and traditions, all at our fingertips. So, a project could easily use epals or something similar to encourage students to strike up conversations and communications with people who are exceptionally different from our comfort zones at home.

I examined for our last project, which was a really interesting website and a nice switch from Youtube. There are certainly mainly similarities between youtube and odeo, but for me, odeo was a nice change of pace. I would use odeo as a vehicle of communication for students to communicate with others by uploading audio or video clips on a variety of topics involving cultural diversity.

Specifically, I was thinking how interesting it would be to have my college students prepare videos of concepts that we discuss on our teacher prep classes. I teach a behavior management class where we discuss various different theories and principles of classroom management and control. However, we also discuss, at length, how the culture of a student can dictate what is appropriate and allowable classroom behavior. For example, some cultures believe that direct eye contact is disrespectful and almost rude, while in other cultures, eye contact is a sign of respect and reverence. Similarly, in some cultures using a loud voice volume is acceptable and part of everyday communication, while in others, it is too casual and familiar.

I would love to see my students prepare videos discussing principles of behavior management and researching how culture impacts what we, as educators, view as appropriate. Most teachers operate from a middle class SES point of view, and more often than note, teachers are white females whose first language is English (and who do not have a second language). However, our students come from diverse backgrounds and cultures and we are not prepared to manage behavior in a manner which honors each student's individual traditions and customs. What better way to share this information than through videos on the web?We could video tape ourselves teaching culturally diverse groups and dissect/critique what was successful (or not) to serve as a learning experience for ourself and others. If we could obtain video consent from out students, I would love to see a series of student testimonials where we ask students probing questions, asking them to reflect on their classroom behavior and discuss what is allowable within their culture (and most importantly, why?)

With the internet providing us access to so many resources, Odeo would provide educators with a vehicle to share information.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Taking it global and kidlink

These two websites both contain great resources for celebrating cultural diversity in students. The Taking it Global website (TIG) has an entire section on culture and identity, with various classifications such as blogs, projects, toolkits, activities and books. The Kidlink website also has a section devoted to cultural and ethnic awareness, with areas where students can explore and discuss their individuality and uniqueness. These websites are so important for children today because our schools and classrooms are becoming more diverse and rich in cultural awareness. Education has embraced the concept of celebrating the differences between our students and young children have opportunities to explore cultures, traditions and backgrounds which are very different from their own. Once upon a time, classrooms were homogeneous environments, and students who had any sort of cultural uniqueness were made to feel as outsiders or inferior beings.

Taking it Global also has internet links and resources on a variety of topics. Among these options, I really liked the white paper on intercultural dialogue. This white paper focuses on the importance of using dialogue and conversation to combat violence, aggression and disharmony in our communities, great and small. Although kidlink discusses the importance of celebrating our diversity, the Taking it Global website looks at this issue in a presumably more global fashion.

Although I found both websites to be informative and useful for classroom teachers and higher ed professionals, they each took a bit of a different spin and perspective on the issue of cultural diversity and made it work for their respective identities. Both websites offer valuable information, in different venues, and in differing formats.

global education

There were so many great sites listed on our suggested list to explore for this module. It was a difficult decision to select a few to examine in closer detail. I first visited the kidlink site because it appeared to be geared towards early childhood, which is my area of concentration. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that this site has information for students of all ages. There are a few basic domains to this site: teachers, students, parents and student teachers. As an instructor in a teacher certification program, I was happy to see resources geared specifically toward student teachers.

Although our assignment was to discuss how we would use these sites for our students in our classrooms, I was struck by how valuable this site would be for my student teacher candidates. Our student teachers get plenty of instruction on theory and educational foundations which is certainly valuable. However, this site provides resources for student teachers which are more authentic and relevant for actual application within a classroom with real students. There are various activities, all categorized by age, which make it very easy for a student teacher to gear a lesson plan towards a specific grade level.

Additionally, the activities are categorized by interests, such as "who am I?" "where do I live?", "what are my roots?", etc. which prompt a student to reflect upon themselves and their family lives, communities and backgrounds. I was impressed to see bilingual and multilingual options appearing on this website as well.

I remember really struggling through my student teaching requirements, as my placement pre-dated the internet by quite a few years (!) and these resources didn't exist at the time. I would have benefited from these ideas and activities, which are nicely organized and structured. I am impressed to see how diversity is celebrated and highlighted, so that each student has the opportunity value their unique background and compositions.

So, I would use this website for my student teacher candidates because it could easily be used for early education, elementary school and secondary placements. The activities contain objectives, outcomes, activities, rationales and even scoring rubrics for summative assessments. These are tools which are valuable for a student teacher starting out, particularly since the activities are so well structured. The objectives are measurable and observable, so the provide a sound and accurate model for our student teachers to follow. The ready made rubrics can be modified and adapted to meet individual needs, so the student teachers could gain experience in using a rubric and designing one for use with their students going forward.

The depth of this website also surprised me, as there were links upon links to explore. I wholeheartedly support use of this website because of it's capacity to provide information on a variety of relevant educational topics and for a variety of age groups.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

IEP development

Although this is an audio clip and not a video clip (it's origin is a radio broadcast), I think this information would be helpful in any of my higher education classes. By the time my graduate students reach my upper level classes, I've assumed that they have retained some of the basic information in IEP development and have written PLEP statements, goals and objectives, etc. However, I have found (the hard way) that this is not always the case and have found myself hastily reviewing IEP writing for one or two students, while the rest of the class looks on half-heartedly. I would love to use some different types of medium, even if it is just a video clip, to review some of this information, which is critically important, but not always super-exciting to students.

Introducing an audio clip would hopefully break up the monotony of the tedious topic and grab some students' attention. Additionally, this particular audio clip is from a radio show that is broadcast here locally, by a woman named Monica Moshenko. Monica is the mother to a young boy named Alex, who has autism. Monica has advocated very strongly for her son; this radio show is just one of the many ways she has decided to share her knowledge and resources with others.

I really like the idea of using video and audio for classroom use. I find myself in some of the same old ruts as others, my old standbyes are Youtube and Google Videos. Although I find some really good stuff on those sites, I was excited to see Odeo, as I've never heard about it before and love trying new things. I did see many links that went right back to Youtube but also saw many, many clips and segments of shows that are not available on Youtube, so I feel as if I have expanded my arsenal of resources a bit. I loved the list that Dr. Burgos provided on our syllabus, because although I only needed to look at one or two sites, I found myself clicking on all of them to see what they could offer.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Twitter: following others to great research

I am following a fellow Twitter member who has created a pathway to disseminate information regarding autism through tweeting. I'm really interested in the neurology of autism, particularly in an area which examines a condition called agenesis of the corpus callosum (where the connection between the right and left hemispheres of the brain is not functioning properly) . Individuals who have savant like abilities are frequently associated with this condition, but researchers have long suspected that all children with autism have dysfunctional corpus callosum. This tweet led me to a great abstract (which led me to a great article) examining the relationship between autism and this condition. It is still difficult to determine if this relationship is causal or correlational but it is fascinating, nonetheless.This tweet, called Translating Autism, has quickly become one of my favorite tweets to follow. I'm waiting anxiously for the tweet promised for tomorrow, which will discuss the Amygdala: the portion of our brains that govern our social abilities, among other attributes. I'm excited because in education, I don't often meet other researchers who share the same clinical interests in neurology that I have, so this has opened up a whole new world for me!

My thoughts on Twitter

I really like the idea of using Twitter to keep in touch with my higher education students immediately after a class meeting to make connections, elaborate on information shared, and relay after-thoughts. Many times, I will think of information that I would have liked to add during a class discussion but may not have had an opportunity or time constraints may have made me hesitant to do so. Presently, I put my thoughts into an e-mail or post on our discussion board.

However, I was fascinated to read in the box of tricks website,, that secondary students (ages 15-18) immediately check into social networking sites as soon as they can get to their computers. It was would be unreasonable to think that college students, particularly undergraduates, would act any differently. How much more efficient it would be to have the immediate connection of a Twitter posting, directly following a class discussion, while the information is still fresh in the minds of the students? The information relayed might be the same time of information that I would normally send out in an e-mail or discussion post, but using the vehicle of a Twitter or something similar would have a more profound impact on the student, as Twitter would have more immediate relevance and incentive for them than checking into their Buff State e-mail account.

Jeffrey Young raises valid points in his article discussing Twitter and college students. Although, as he mentions, iPhones and similar devices are becoming more and more common on college campuses, there is still the issue of cost to the student for a texting program, or for some, even the expense of the cell phone device itself. However, as Young mentions, Twitter messages can easily be sent to a web-based computer as opposed to a cell phone and it is true that many college students have package plans with mobile phone providers which allow for unlimited number of texts per month.

Young further discusses how some experts in the field of information technology feel that Twittering will never reach the heights of popularity that Facebook or e-mailing enjoy among young adults. That remains to be seen as Twitter is still in its infancy stages of development and exposure. Young raises several interesting points on is blog, located at

My thoughts about Twitter for personal use are a bit conflicted. I don’t really need another reason to be held captive in front of my computer, so I’m not sure how much I would use Twitter from a social point of view. That being said, I am excited to use Twitter for my college-aged students in a variety of ways. I do like how instant Twitter is and contrary to my initial thoughts, it doesn’t appear as if students use it exclusively in self-obsessive or narcissistic ways. Hopefully, it can be used as a way to disseminate information on a frequent, daily basis. I like the idea of sending students a message, probing question, writing prompt or thought for the day which would be relevant for their lifestyle, but still get them thinking about subject matter which we are currently discussing in our coursework. Students very often comment on the value (or lack thereof) that they find from their college classes, as they have a difficult time relaying what they are hearing, seeing and/or reading in practical, meaningful ways into their life. I think Twitter can bridge that gap and disseminate information in a manner which is current and relevant for a student.