Technology Whirlwind

Over the last 10 weeks, I’ve been exposed to various new forms of technology through the college course titled Learning Technology for Educators. Now, we’re at the end of the semester, and it is time to start visualizing how I can use all the technological tools I’ve learned in my own classroom. Looking back, we really did accomplish a lot: from blogging, to social media, screencasting, Flipboard, animated movies, and the big one, a Webquest.

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IMG76” by US Department of Education is licensed under CC BY 2.0

It probably comes as no surprise, since I’m a part-time radio DJ, that my favorite tool and one I’ll be using a lot in the future is screencasting. This semester I became very familiar with Snagit. I really enjoy being able to easily show someone how to do something right on my computer screen. I can see how valuable this tool will be as a teacher. I’ll be able to create lessons with a screencast or answer a student question about how to navigate a website or issue.

Copyright Commerical

I enjoyed learning how to use the tool PowToon to create my copyright commercial. I’m sure there are many animators who don’t like how simple PowToon makes it for the average person to create a movie, but that seems to be the trend of everything in technology: make it simpler and easier for everyone. Speaking of simple, who knew creating your own website was so easy? Not me! But, Google Sites has created an easy layout so that anyone can create their own website. You can choose a template or go the hard road and create your own layout like I did. I used Google Sites for my Webquest From the Ground Up. After spending countless hours on the site, I think I’ve finally got it down after a lot of trial and error. But, isn’t that what all technology boils down to? You keep trying different things until you find something that works.

Screencast of the Webquest “From the Ground Up”

After the last 10 weeks, I have a new appreciation for the art of blogging. I never wanted a blog before, but now that I have one, I keep having ideas for future blog posts. “Can you fall in love over text message?”, “Life without a uterus”, and “Parents, please stop wiping your child’s bottom” are a few that keep running through my head. I like how much critical thought is put into blogging, and I can see that it’s an extremely valuable tool for students to cultivate. Another valuable tool someone learns when he or she becomes a blogger is how to use Creative Commons images and media. I became very familiar with Flickr and the proper way to site an image. This is vital in today’s society where students sometimes think that anything on the internet is free. Images on the internet are not free, and you should always give credit for the material you use.

Always Ask Permission

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Copyright symbol” by David Wees is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This week at school, we dove into the confusing and word-filled world of Copyright law. To say it is impossible to keep all the rules in mind is an understatement. I am feeling overwhelmed, and I already had a decent understanding of copyright law. Working as a radio DJ and video editor in the past, there were always pieces of music or images that we couldn’t use. One time, the company I edited videos for was sued by the family of Einstein for using his image without permission. That “mistake” cost them $10,000, and made me extremely aware that using copyrighted material can have grave consequences.

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Copyright” by Saad Akhtar is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Teachers must be knowledgeable of Copyright law and respect it, otherwise their school district could be found liable. The Fair Use doctrine allows teachers some leeway, but it really only provides a limited basis for using a copyrighted work. Most teachers are aware of the Copyright Act which allows educators to copy some items, but again there are limitations. Examples of what can be copied are a poem of 250 words or less, or up to 250 words of a longer poem, a single chapter from a book, and an article, short story or essay of 2,500 words or less. See what I meant earlier? The rules involved with Copyright law are overwhelming.

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copyright takedown notice” by Andrew Allingham is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Copyright law is more important than ever for teachers to understand and help students understand. Growing up in the digital age, students think that anything on the internet is free for the taking. But, it is crucial for them to understand that the internet is not the public domain. Things in the public domain are typically very old and nothing created since computers came into existence is even close to entering the public domain. Teachers and students must become comfortable with requesting permission to use images, music, stories, articles, and basically anything created by someone else. And, they need to be familiar with how to use things that are Creative Commons. When someone has put the CC license on their work, it means the owner is making the work available to others while reserving some rights to it. A great place to look for Creative Commons material is on Flickr or Wikimedia. To sum up this very complex issue, assume a work is copyrighted and ask permission to use it.

A Love/Hate Relationship with Social Media

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Myspace 선물” by egg (Hong, Yun Seon) is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Back in the day, there was myspace. I say that because about 9 years ago I decided to completely ditch myspace for Facebook. At the time, it seemed like myspace was a dying site, and Facebook was taking over the world. Today, it seems like that assessment was mostly correct. The thing that still draws me to Facebook is the fact that I’ve been able to keep in touch with distant family and reconnect with friends from decades past. When Instagram came around, I was drawn to the idea of having a site for just posting pictures, so I joined it as well.

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Twitter” by Kooroshication is licensed under CC BY 2.0

For many years, I have been happy maintaining just those two sites. And, I say maintaining because for me, it is a chore. I don’t like putting all of my personal business online for the world to see, and I feel a little creepy spying on people I used to know 20 or 30 years ago. I’ve had many people try to get me to join Twitter over the years, and I flat out refused. Then, one night in my technology class for University of La Verne, I was forced to join. I can see the appeal of Twitter, but it also seems like a site that is losing steam. I have a lot of friends in the radio business and most of them aren’t using Twitter anymore. It seems most have migrated to sites like Snapchat (another one I have refused to join).

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Edmodo screenshot by Jennifer Conter

It seems that all future teachers are being told they will be using Twitter in the classroom. I can understand the appeal of having students put their own words on display for the world so they can get accustomed to a true response. It can be hard taking criticism and what better place to build up a thick skin than in the realm of social media? The fact that this blog is available for anyone to read makes me much more conscious of the words I type, and the same thing happens with our students. I’m not sure I will be using Twitter in the classroom, but I definitely look forward to using a site like Edmodo. I really like the idea of a safe online environment that is just for students, teachers, and parents. Edmodo has also made the very intelligent move to incorporate Google Apps for Education and Microsoft Office into the site, so I can’t wait to dive into it.

Ready, Set, Periscope

I recently had an assignment for school where I had to find an edtech tool that I thought would become popular in classrooms. After reviewing hundreds of tools, I decided to go with one that took me a bit out of my comfort zone: Periscope. As a former video editor for an organization in Los Angeles, I am no stranger to the concept of streaming. Even with that being the case, I’ve never had the desire to broadcast myself around the globe. But, after doing some research, I see a whole new world of possibilities with the app, Periscope.

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Periscope logo

Periscope is an app you can put on your iOS or Android device and use to stream anything you want to the world or just a select group of people. Periscope was acquired by Twitter before it launched in 2015, so you can easily create a login with just your Twitter account. Since many classrooms today have already incorporated tweeting into their lesson plans, I think the next logical step will be live streaming. I see Periscope being used to broadcast important classroom moments, graduations, and even for use with homework.

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Red dots are live broadcasts happening in real-time on Periscope.

As with anything, there are some pitfalls to using this kind of technology. First, it requires users to have a cellphone and one with plenty of data in the event that they want to stream something but are away from a Wi-Fi signal; the last thing teachers need is an angry mob of parents yelling about data charges. The second pitfall that causes concern is that this will be a very difficult tool for shy and reserved students to use. My hope is that by using this type of technology, it could help them come out of their shells and maybe even find a voice they didn’t know they had.

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With Periscope, viewers can interact with broadcasters in real-time.

At the moment, Periscope has a lot of competition because everyone wants to get in the streaming game. Meerkat was Periscope’s main rival, since both apps launched at the same time in 2015. But, just last week Meerkat shut down, so they are no longer part of the equation. Facebook recently jumped into streaming by launching Facebook Live and got a great deal of attention by having celebrities use it. There are also sites/apps like YouTube Live, Snapchat, and Livestream that offer streaming, just to name a few. I think that since it has Twitter as its main support system, Periscope stands the chance of being around for many years to come.

Living in the Cloud

Over the last few years, there have been many discussions and comedies about what happens in “the cloud.” Just this week, I took a huge leap into the cloud by entrusting it with 3,000 photos from my iPhone. As technologically savvy as I like to think I am, this was still a highly worrisome quandary. But after weeks of thinking it over, my iPhone now has 7 extra GB of space and Google Photos is now the home of 2 years of my life in photos.

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Pink Clouds

Cloud technology is effecting every part of our lives and it is even effecting the way teachers plan lessons in their classrooms. Think about just one site for the moment: Google. Students can create documents, presentations, and photo albums in Google, and instantly share them with classmates and the teacher.  Feedback happens within just a few minutes with cloudware technology and that in itself makes learning more efficient.

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Whispy Sunset Clouds

The cloud has also made the world we live in a highly collaborative locale. Students today aren’t aware that we, human beings, used to be much more private entities. We didn’t need constant feedback and approval on every aspect of our lives, but that is all this new generation of learners knows. Instead of fighting what has now become human nature, teachers need to embrace all the possibilities that come with cloud based technology.

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Globe balls” by jason wilson is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The fact that a teacher can connect his or her classroom with a classroom across the globe, with just the click of the mouse, is truly amazing. The amount of resources (they increase everyday) that teachers have at the push of a button is jaw-dropping, and that is one reason teachers need to join their own collaborative groups to stay current with today’s ever-evolving technological landscape. It’s becoming more and more obvious that one teacher can’t do it all alone, so we will need to learn to work together to ensure today’s students have the most dynamic learning environment possible.

PBL: Students Working in Groups

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PBL Science Experiment” by Jennifer Conter is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Most schools today have transitioned or are in the process of transitioning into a Project Based Learning style of teaching. With Project Based Learning, students are encouraged to use critical thinking, collaboration, and communication to complete a project. Typically, teachers will divide students into teams to solve problems, and students will give each other feedback and figure out the best ways to get a solution. In my own preschool classroom, I have only used PBL a few times, but it has really energized the students.

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Students work in a group to complete a worksheet” by The Liverpool School of English is licensed under CC BY 2.0

In college, I have experienced Project Based Learning in almost all my courses. At one point, I even wondered if there was a new push to constantly put students into groups. Unfortunately, I feel the same way today as I felt all those years ago; it is annoying. Most of the PBL situations I’ve been put in throughout my college career have ended with me doing all the work for the group. It is very difficult to force people to participate and do their share, so someone always ends up picking up the slack.

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discussing computer problems” by Isabelle Plante is licensed under CC BY 2.0

It is obvious that Project Based Learning helps prepare students for the real world by forcing them to work together to find an answer. There are many advantages to using Project Based Learning. With the way technology has evolved, it is good to foster communication skills at a young age, since students don’t always know how to converse with each other. And, students can explain things to each other in a way that a teacher never could. But, the disadvantages are that one person can bully the group and force things to be done one way without considering different viewpoints, or one person ends up doing all the work because the rest of the group won’t participate.

Put Students in the Driver’s Seat

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Maddy driving” by Jennifer Conter is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

World-renowned education researcher Sugata Mitra has facilitated some amazing studies on how children learn. The experiments he has documented have shocked the educational world, but educators are slowly adapting to a brand-new style of teaching. Mitra has given many TED talks and this post will focus on two of them: Sugata Mitra’s new experiments in self-teaching and Build a School in the Cloud.

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Eye on the Prize” by Steve Jurvetson is licensed under CC BY 2.0

My initial response to watching Mitra’s talks is that I’m doing it all wrong. By day, I am a preschool teacher. It is my job to get a group of 4 year olds ready for kindergarten. Last year was my first attempt at this wild endeavor and besides the behavioral issues, I wasn’t met with any resistance on the curriculum. This year is a completely different story. Most of my students don’t even know how to hold a pencil, so I’m having to teach them the basics. This new group also doesn’t want to be forced to do work, so I am now revamping my entire curriculum and working to find ways to make learning the alphabet fun.

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student_ipad_school – 033” by Brad Flickinger is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Another thing I was reminded of by watching the two TED talks given by Mitra is that teachers need to assume more of an observer role, rather than always being in the director’s chair. When doing art projects, I used to give the students all the pieces needed, and then put up a picture of artwork I wanted them to make. But, this week I gave them all the pieces and asked them how they could use their pieces to make an apple. Not all of them succeeded, but at least they created something that was their own.

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student_ipad_school – 126” by Brad Flickinger is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Mitra’s experiments have huge implications for teachers. Direct old school teaching doesn’t work with this generation. Students are accustomed to being self-directed on their iPads and iPhones, so teachers need to find ways to engage them on those devices. It is also obvious that this generation wants to choose their own learning environment. With that being the case, teachers have to select what is being offered in the classroom very carefully, in order to assist young learners in attaining a well-balanced learning experience.