Friday, January 28, 2011

Searching on the never ending Web, how can we be successful when we need to find relevant materials on the Web for the classroom?

The key to being successful when using a search engine I found out is the vocabulary and how specific you are when using the search engine.  The more specific, simpler the language and more components for a search request the better your results will be.  I found that using trial and error, and building onto my search results helped me to get what I needed.  As an example, for a search I wanted some clip art that was fun or a cartoon the depicted a book for a poster in my classroom.  I went from “pics. of books”, to “cartoon book figures” before I had a selection I wanted.

The difference between a search engine and a subject directory I found  seemed to be comparable to the difference between  an “advanced search” and  “browsing” a subject.  The most useful was the subject directory, although I did find that educational website links had a quite few personal pages that were obsolete or not functional.  This probably has to do with a project that lasted a year or so, then was never maintained. 

The websites that supported our Sunshine State Standards were the Florida department of education, which I found very difficult to navigate, and the adopted series websites for core subject areas.  These were much more user friendly then the DOE site.  The sites made to correlate with the book series, that we have in Orange County,  seemed to make it very easy to interact, and “attach” standards to lesson plans.  A specific example is the Houghton Mifflin series.  This series has an outlined technology plan that identifies what lessons from the classroom whole group lessons, correlates with what lessons that should be “assigned “ to students.  Teachers can use the Riverdeep program to create lessons that reinforce the same standards and objectives that are taught from the textbook.  This helps to integrate what is taught in class with what can be practiced at home.  It also has a lesson planner to help create yearlong plan for teachers to follow with what aspects of the program they want to use. 

The current website that Orange County Public Schools maintains is a one stop area for the public, teachers/employees, parents and students. It is moderately easy to navigate, but the search engine it has to use for the site is inadequate and the results it produces mostly are not relevant.  As for basic questions and information the site is great, but the more specific you get with your information request the harder it seems it is to find what you’re looking for.   The county and individual schools websites throughout the state, seem to be the only other resource I could find that added to what the Florida Department of Education that were reliable. 

It seems the Web 2.0 is more than adequate  for my search current needs, but the new 3.0 seems to be beyond what I ever expected for being connected through the digital world.  I felt that the search tools that were provided by the textbook more than met my needs, but with the amount of disposable sites seemed to be too numerous.  There was a good amount of suggested sites that didn’t meet my needs, which shows there is room for improvement.  Included in the frustration of the search engines was when I continued to use the wrong  vocabulary, this led to dead ends and “no results found” problems.  These two issues increase the time that you spend on the web and with the ideas that were outlined for the Web 3.0, it seems there will be an ease to many current burdens of the Web 2.0, of life in general and will allow computers to help use in more aspects of our life. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

“Are we doing what is best for our students, or are we doing what is most convenient for us?” Well, are we?

As a response to the question about convenience, I can only say it depends on the person.  There are many people who are "teachers" and some that work as a teacher for a job.  A true teacher will always put the student first and do what is best for the student.  Yes I feel I do what is best for the student, but I am limited by little resources, out of date technology, and evaluators who aren't trained to educate.

There are a variety of things that we can use to integrate technology into our classrooms.  The problem is who's going to pay for it?  It seems that the taxpayers need to pay for, but it should be the private district.  They are creating new jobs, so they should be responsible for giving the public schools the funds to provide the best education, which includes paying for technology in the classroom.  With the correct funding, we can be more efficient as teachers and more effective.  The integration of technology includes software, hardware, and skills to integrate and use them.

The average tax payer doesn't directly benefit from public education that utilizes technology.  Some retired folks here in Florida never get anything from the portion of taxes they pay that funds education.  Since they are retired, their children have gone through school, and they themselves don't use technology on a regular basis, their money is wasted.  These unfortunate people are forced to pay for others to benefit from our current students education.  For them a school is a landmark rather than something that fits into their daily life.  As for our current parents, they need public schools, and just because they can't afford to pay for their child's education or help fund for technology that is now essential, the classroom suffers.  If the private district was held more accountable, we could have much better funding.  It's a cycle, a business creates a new product, we learn how to use it in school (or integrate it's use in the classroom), we buy products, and the business profits from it.

There is a huge variety of choices that school districts have to improve a classroom.  The use of technology to assist in the education process is now a key factor in allowing students to learn for their future careers.  We need computers, and not just one or two that barely work, but a mini-lab to accommodate at least 25% of a class roster at a time.  This allows for effective teaching.  We can use these computers and the vast variety of computer software to remediate, maintain and enrich students through software that instantly adjusts to the students needs.  It actually is better than what human can do, as that is one reason why computers are used.  This is, to do things faster and better than a human being can.  Today's classroom needs to have up to date and instant access to students’ performance.  Key advanced technology devices such items as "Smartboards" with student interface devices, and a centralized computer for the teacher to use is a key part of a current classroom.  Sure it's easy to use the same lesson each period, or for a few years.  Those of us that are real "teachers" constantly change what we are doing.  Using technology makes the process faster.  As the textbook talks about the differences in our current students we need make constant changes to accommodate a diverse classroom.  Using something as simple as a PowerPoint slideshow to review for a test can reach out and grab the new learners that fill the chairs of our classrooms.  Students should be using flash drives, to save their work that they do in the computer lab.  The work I think of is using word processing to help the student improve their writing when learning to write.  Also, creating presentations using PowerPoint to present a topic, instead of just standing in front of the class and reading an essay.  We need to use current devices, software, social networks, and blogs to engage students in learning.  Some students could sit at home in front of their computer, use the virtual world, and never come to school, only to perform better than those who wasted their day sitting in class.

There is a viewpoint no matter what the situation is.  I think many teachers are viewed as lazy and doing what is most convenient.  As with any profession the media glamorizes the negative "news" and creates a label of a profession.  If a doctor gets arrested for being inappropriate towards patients, all doctors are then treated as molesters and need to have a "chaperone" in the room.  Most people outside of the daily classroom see teachers as doing what is most convenient, but how many people know what the right way to teach a student is?  We have parents, not trained as teachers, politicians, who have no idea what a teacher's job is and administrators that haven't been in a classroom except the few minute to see if the teacher is doing the right thing.  Now all these people need to be in the classroom and actually teach, more than just once, and on a regular basis.  They need to see that as teachers we battle for lack of supplies, technology, support staff, time, support from parents, and motivation from students.  It is only the teacher who is motivated to show gains with "data", as this is our life and career, for a student it's just another test.

As a closing statement doing what is convenient can only be truly measured by the person teaching.  Outside observers aren't equipped to evaluate in some cases and an explanation can easily make a terrible idea look innovative.  I think the question posed on Dr. Mcleod's website is for those who may be burnt out, because I know if I had the access to current technology I could make vast leaps in student gains, and do what is best for each student.

Dr. Scott McLeod, (2007), Well? What's your answer?. Retrieved from: May 1, 2007.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Welcome to my blog, this week I want to share sum information about handheld devices.

As I read in an article from MaximumPC, I started thinking about what are the most useful handheld devices in my life.  According to the article here is the top ten most important handheld devices...

 10-the pin drive, I find that this is a needed piece of equipment that we all must have in order to bring our "work" with us without having to take the whole computer, or even a bulky disk.  Flash technology is up and coming and now is being used for hard drives.

9-the Walkman, this proceeded the iPod, but was important to handheld music progression.

 8-the Palm-VII which of course lead us to the current PDAs.

 7-the Canon 5D, this was the start of digital photograph.  Lets face it without digital cameras we would be spending a fortune on film that we wouldn't be able to use.

 6-the iPad, what can I say but wow.  This will be the next generation textbook to have in connection and will work with Smartboards to make cost efficient learning possible.

5-the Harmony Remote Control, this was the first universal remote.  It doesn't fit in the classroom, but its what lets us use the Direct TV remote for all of our entertainment equipment.

4-Texas Instruments Cal Tech, yes it is the first calculator, and according to the article "led the way for billions of calculators afterwards".

3-the iPhone, this started and still leads the way in smartphone technology.  Without this social networking would not be as accessible, nor would the Internet.

 2-Amazon Kindle, while this helps save space, it leads to endless reading pleasure.  I think it is another device that shows a window to the future of how textbooks will look like in the future classroom.

1-Abacus, while this doesn't seem very technologically advance, it gave the idea and basis for portable devices that were used to assist the human being in daily life.
(MaximumPC Vol. 16, No.2 Feb. 2011)

Please post your ideas on what is the most important handheld device for you.