Thursday, November 21, 2013

Project 12, B

Blog Post #14

While reflecting on what I plan to do as a teacher influenced by my own experience in high school, I thought of the one thing that wasn't only missing from this EDM310 class concerning my area of study (Second. Ed., Eng. Lang. Arts), but from the classes I took in high school as well.

I decided to find the solution to a very pressing problem in the subject I plan to teach:

How can I effectively teach vocabulary to my students using technology?

In part, this apprehension is due to my recent reading of Kathleen Morris' blog post "Looking Back, Looking Forward" in which Kathleen Morris basically describes the triviality of busy work/work sheets in the classroom. In my four years at two different academically acclaimed high schools, I realized that the main way I was being taught vocabulary was through workbook assignments that meant little to nothing to me (as these assignments generally meant little to nothing to my grade). However, the main way I was learning vocabulary was through reading via context clues.

It doesn't really seem reasonable to request that all students become avid readers (though it would be ideal!) so while I have every intention of surrounding my students with great literature, I cannot expect them to surround themselves with it. The point being: I cannot expect my students to expand their vocabularies the way that I did, by challenging their minds through reading difficult texts.

So, I start to think that someone else has probably had this thought, too. "Why teach vocabulary through something so obsolete as workbook assignments when the internet has indubitably provided all sorts of ways to teach it?" To me, it is absolutely obsolete to continue to teach vocabulary the way I was taught (pen and paper assignments, quizzes, and tests). Taking for granted that standardized tests do not change soon (though, I hope they do), Vocabulary will still be a large chunk of the tests, considering the Reading Comprehension section, the selected readings, the science section--pretty much any section other than math (though, an expansive vocabulary can be of use there as well). If student's can't understand the tests, how can they be expected to show their understanding? It's impossible.

So, I started to explore the internet for some solutions.

Thankfully, I stumbled upon this little gem . While I admit, all the ideas are vastly aimed towards elementary-aged students, I believe that some of them may easily be modified to produce ENGAGING vocabulary lessons for teenagers. So here is a list of the resources I've found:


Foremost and my favorite because I've used Free Rice since my freshman year of high school. Then, it was really presented as a reward for learning our lessons on time (I first encountered it in a Latin class). Now, I find myself on it just for kicks. Not only is it a completely free website that may be utilized to master the basics of ANY language (and most subjects), it also donates 10 grains of rice for every correct answer to the World Food Program! Talk about a meaningful lesson! Students can contribute to world hunger relief all while learning new words, languages, and concepts. There is only one set back that I can imagine about this program, and that is its apparent inability to supply a certain list of vocabulary words. I'm still young in my educational endeavors, but it seems to me that as long as students are learning as many words as possible on the long list of English words available, we're still accomplishing more than assigning a chapter of a vocabulary workbook and having one student complete it and the remaining 24 students idly plagiarizing.

2.) Wordle

Wordle is a device that takes a group of words and basically jumbles them together to create a visual piece of word art. While most applications of this site seem to be for fun or for younger grades, I believe that Wordle may easily be used in high schools as well to associate synonyms together and antonyms as well. To help with learning "difficult" science terms, I can see Wordle as an aid to learning Latin and Greek roots as well.

This is a wordle I created based off of my last post in my blog (I liked it because it almost resembles a tree, or a dinosaur):

3.) Wordsift

Like Wordle, but better. Wordsift creates a similar visual word jumble as Wordle, only it links the individual words to a thesaurus--so students may easily access similar words to the one they do not understand. See an example below:
wordsift 'I Have A Dream' Speech Example


Vocabulary is basically a more challenging version of Free, only no one gets free rice for correct answers. I will most likely only recommend this one to students for standardized testing purposes.

5.) Balabolka

Balabolka is a Speech to Text program which is a valuable, free resource for audio-learners. The program can take written texts (like a list of vocabulary words and definitions, or synonyms) and read them aloud to those auditory learners.

6.) Visuwords

Visuwords is yet another resource for Visual learners that physically links synonyms together on the web. Here's an example for the word "fantasy":
Visuwords chart of 'fantasy'

Needless to say, these are just a few of the multitude of resources available on the internet. I look forward to further exploring this particular area of my field for the benefit of my students.

Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

PLN Report #2 (Final)

While I admit that I definitely have room to grow in my PLN endeavors, I'd say that so far I've done fairly well. Twitter is probably going to be my go-to database for new ideas because it is so easy to browse a large variety of ideas as well as gather news information and the endeavors of other teachers I am following. I have yet to find a blog to regularly consult but only because I haven't explored blogs on my own yet. Before I graduate and leave Mobile, I plan to meet with all the teachers that positively affected me as a student so that I can pick their brains for ideas about education and how exactly they conducted their classrooms. I definitely hope to stay in touch with these teachers afterwards as well. Perhaps, I can share some of the magic of technology with them in order to do so. I look forward to expanding my PLN in the future.
the networked educator

Friday, November 15, 2013

Blog Post #13

Charles Leadbeater: "Education innovation in the slums"

written by Laura Crawford

In this presentation, Mr. Leadbeater summarizes the effects of varying programs worldwide that have successfully integrated technology into “slums” for education’s sake. Leadbeater begins his presentation with this intriguing thought: “Your vantage point determines what you can see…The question that you ask will determine much of the answer that you get”. The question that follows is: “where do we look to see what education will become?” Leadbeater seems to regret that most educators answer with “go to Finland.” However, he spent time studying over a hundred case studies of how education has improved in the most impoverished regions of the world.
“Radical innovation does sometimes come from the very best [i.e. Finland]. But it often comes from places where you have huge need, unmet latent demands and not enough resources for traditional [high-cost] solutions to work which depend on professionals.”
The aforementioned quotation best summarizes Mr. Leadbeater’s endeavor. The prevalent theme in all the programs he studied seemed to be the integration of technology. As he stated, the most successful programs used “technology for learning that made learning fun and accessible”. This is because “education in these settings works by pull, not push.” Leadbeater laments that “most of our education works by push” and has since the early 19th century when the Bismarckian structure of the educational system was created. However, in today’s times, it becomes clearer every day that this system is entirely obsolete. In the words of Mr. Leadbeater, “education needs to work by pull, not push.”
Leadbeater suggests that the key to educating students successfully is by motivating them to pursue knowledge on their own. This motivation may be either extrinsic or intrinsic. Leadbeater defines extrinsic motivation as the “pay off” (in our culture, it would be a potential job). However, Mr. Leadbeater also notes that the extrinsic motivators prevalent in our culture are often too far away (i.e. ten years) which does not coincide with the immediate gratification mindset of kids today.
Leadbeater then invites his audience to “imagine an educational system that started from a question, not imposed knowledge” and the consequences of a system set around this type of learning. Leadbeater emphasizes that “you have to engage people first in order to teach them”. An interesting comparison that Leadbeater makes is between Chinese restaurants and the McDonald’s chain. He encourages that schools be like Chinese restaurants, in that—there is no chain (standardization) but you can still easily identify a Chinese restaurant when you see one. McDonald’s, however, is held to a standard. Every McDonald’s in every city in every country in the world has the exact same standard and menu. Leadbeater annunciates that this absolutely should not be the case in schools. Schools need to meet the curriculum of the community attending them.
Leadbeater then invites his audience to consider the alternative to the way schools are enforced today (by sustaining innovation in a formal setting) to disruptive innovation in an informal setting. Leadbeater encourages the latter which advocates “high collaboration, personalized [attention to students], high [standard of] technology[…]where learning starts from questions not from curriculum”
Mr. Leadbeater concludes by reiterating that “the 19th century Bismarckian [model]schools lay waste to imagination, to appetite” and “stratify society as much as it benefits it”. His closing line is a powerful one as he concludes: “We are bequeathing to the developing world school systems that they will now spend a century trying to reform.”

Alison Gopnik: "What Do Babies Think?"

written by Ashley Railey

As I looked through the list of TED talks, my mind was fixed on the first listed. What do babies think? Since I have three kids, I’ve often asked myself the same thing. Alison Gopnik explains in her lecture that a baby or young child’s mind is a lot more complex than we have thought in the past. Children are constantly observing and learning behavior from adults. She explains that because they are taken care of for so long, their brains can focus on learning rather than surviving.
Gopnik compares human babies to those of other animals. She says that the longer a baby is nurtured by it’s mother, the smarter the species is. For example, some crows and ravens feed their young for up to two years. This is a very long time in the life span of a bird. On the other hand, the domestic chicken matures in a couple of months. Gopnik explains that childhood is the reason why crows end up on the cover of science magazines while the chicken ends up as lunch.
Gopnik states,”Another way of thinking about it is instead of thinking of babies and children as being like defective grownups, we should think about them as being a different developmental stage of the same species, kind of like caterpillars and butterflies. Except that they're actually the brilliant butterflies who are flitting around the garden and exploring, and we're the caterpillars who are inching along our narrow, grownup, adult path.”
Division of labor between the adults and children are what helps us survive as humans. Babies and young children are completely helpless and rely on their mother’s care for the first decade of their lives. This way the children can spend all of their time learning and not on sheer survival. Once we reach adulthood, we can take all the things we learned as children and apply them to our daily lives.
Gopnik suggests that babies are like scientist. They develop a hypothesis and go out and test it. Depending on the outcome they may change that hypothesis. To test her theory, she used a machine called the Blicket Detector. The Blicket Detector is a machine that lights up when you put some things on it and not others. Gopnik explains:
“If I showed you this detector, you would be likely to think, to begin with, that the way to make the detector go would be to put a block on top of the detector. But actually, this detector works in a bit of a strange way. Because if you wave a block over the top of the detector, something you wouldn't ever think of to begin with, the detector will actually activate two out of three times. Whereas, if you do the likely thing, put the block on the detector, it will only activate two out of six times. So the unlikely hypothesis actually has stronger evidence. It looks as if the waving is a more effective strategy than the other strategy. So we did just this; we gave four year-olds this pattern of evidence, and we just asked them to make it go . And sure enough, the four year-olds used the evidence to wave the object on the top of the detector.”
At four years old children are just learning to count, but these kids were doing complicated calculations to discover the probability. The kids were forming ideas from the Blicket Detector and coming up with a hypothesis.
I thought Alison Gopnik’s lecture was remarkable. I had never realized how complex a young child’s mind really is. My youngest daughter is 14 months old. When she is mumbling and rattling to me, as if she is having a full conversation in baby talk, I wonder what is going through her mind. I think now, that maybe she is trying to convey to me everything she already knows but cannot voice.
Gopnik ends her lecture by saying, “ If what we want is to be like those butterflies, to have open-mindedness, open learning, imagination, creativity, innovation, maybe at least some of the time we should be getting the adults to start thinking more like children.”

Kakenya Ntaiya: "a girl who demanded school"

written by Caitlin Hinton

In this TED talk given by Kakenya Ntaiya we learn of a girl who demanded school. Kakenya is a woman who grew up in Kenya and she belongs to the Maasai’s. When Kakenya was a young girl was told that she had a man who was waiting to marry her, but she would have to be older. Kakenya went to school as a young girl and she dreamt of being a teacher. When she was 12 she went through a female right of passage within her community. In the Maasai tradition young girls who have reached puberty are subjected to female genital mutilation. Most of the girls who go through this die from loss of blood. Kakenya, who did not want to quit going to school, made a deal with her father. Kakenya asked her father if she went through with the Maasai ritual if he would allow her to go to high school and he agreed. At the age of 12 Kakenya and other girls went through what was probably one of the most painful experiences of their lives. Thankfully Kakenya survived and continued on to high school. In the mind of the Maasai what they subject these young girls to is just a part of their culture and in order for a girl to become a wife she must go through this or it will bring tremendous shame on her family. When Kakenya applied to college in America and started school, it was then that she learned that female genital mutilation was against the law in Kenya. It was from that point on that Kakenya decided she had to do something about this. She decided that she would start a school for girls in her community. The girls who attend this school are not subjected to the horrific act of female genital mutilation and they have a future that is attainable and bright. When I watched this video I honestly felt guilty. How many times do I take my education for granted? In America we are truly blessed not only with education but with education that is full of technological advantages. We are given the opportunity to be whatever we dream of being. In other parts of the world, such as Kenya, children are not encouraged to dream and become the person they want to be, but instead are told what their roles are within their communities and they must follow them. Our children are given stable environments to learn and flourish in. An education is something that should never be taken away from a child or anyone for that matter. I feel as educators we should always encourage our students to dream and challenge them to become whatever it is that they want to be. It is important to remember that our education is important because there are people all around the world who would love to sit in a classroom and be given the opportunity to learn. We must never take our education for granted. Kakenya Ntaiya’s story is a story of hope and inspiration and I think that we could all take something away from the story of the girl who demanded school.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


1: 11/10

Mrs. Kathleen Morris

In this post, Mrs. Morris illustrates the many potential uses of blogging in the classroom--particularly related to meeting the literacy requirements for her students. Mrs. Morris emphasizes that we need to make our students transliterate (basically, able to read all different sorts of media) because it is a necessary skill for the betterment of their education. From literacy rotations to blogging portfolios, Mrs. Morris continues to instill the importance of blogging in the classroom to her readers. Mrs. Morris also gives great advice about blogging in her comments to her readers in the comment section.
See the full article (and hopefully my post) here.
school supplies

2: 11/17

Mrs. Kathleen Morris

Mrs. Morris demonstrates the triviality of work sheets and busy work in this post. She has been asked to clean out her room (maternity leave, yay!) so she focuses mostly on condensing all of her materials from her room. Her greatest lament seems to be her initial respect for work sheets. I agree with this epiphany of Mrs. Morris--only, I had it as a student. Worksheets rarely (if ever) encourage critical thinking, which (I believe) is the purpose of education. See her full article, as well as my comment here.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

C4K November



Lave @ Pt England School

Given 40 minutes to write about a topic of his choosing, Year 8 student Lave depicted a typical game of paintball with his family. He uses powerful descriptions through similes and metaphors, adjectives, and forceful verbs. He also uses a fantastic narrative voice as well as onomatopoeia to give his narrative more of a BANG! (get it?) See his full story, along with my comment here.


Mrs. Yollis' Third Grade Class

In this blog post, Mrs. Yollis describes a recent project she created with her class. She basically requested that her students create a digital family tree, and had her students' friends and family members comment on the post in honor of "Family Blogging Month". This exercise, to me, exemplifies how to incorporate the community in the classroom. See the original post (hopefully, along with my comment) here.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Project 12, A

Blog Post #12

Sir Ken Robinson: “Changing Education Paradigms”

written by Laura Crawford

Ken Robinson begins his talk “Changing Education Paradigms” by suggesting two reasons every country on the planet is changing their education system. The first is economic; the question being “how do we educate our children to take their place in the economies of the 21st century?” The second reason is cultural. Ken Robinson states that every country on earth is trying to figure out how to educate children so they have a sense of cultural identity while being a part of the process of globalization. The problem seems to begin with the roots of the current education system. Ken Robinson says that the current system of education was designed and conceived and structured for a different age—the enlightenment and the industrial revolution. The Enlightenment view of intelligence was really an equation in and of itself: capability of deductive reasoning is completely equivalent to academic ability. This system leaves otherwise brilliant people under the impression that they are dumb and stuck in their lower-paying jobs. Ken Robinson then suggests that these twin pillars (economic and intellectual) create chaos for most people. Furthermore, Sir Robinson addresses the issue of ADHD—an epidemic that he claims isn’t really an epidemic. Ken Robinson claims our children are living in the most intensely stimulating period in the history of the earth. What’s interesting is that the instances of ADHD have positively correlated with the increase of standardized testing. Sir Robinson points out that in America, ADHD increases as you go east. What decreases as you go east is the funding for the arts. Robinson states: “the arts are the victims of this mentality”. Arts emphasize the aesthetic appeal—the parts of the brain that are equally stimulated by the media, video games, and advertising surrounding students today. The arts are battled, however, mostly by anesthetics (the medication prescribed for ADHD) that deafen the brain to these stimulating experiences. Ken Robinson states that children are readily “medicated as routinely as we had our tonsils taken out”. His next point of emphasis was the assembly-line mentality taken in schools toward education. He asks “why is their age the most important thing?” and really hits the idea with his comedic comment: “it’s like their date of manufacture”. This production line mentality is conforming students through standardization (of tests, scores, grades, etc.). Ken Robinson seems to be a proponent of divergent thinking, which is frequently confused with creativity but isn’t. Sir Robinson suggests that divergent thinking is actually an essential capacity of creativity. He defines it as “the ability to see many possible answers to a question, of interpreting a question” Basically, thinking more relation-ally than linearly. Sir Robinson supports this idea of education with empirical evidence from a longitudinal study. The study encouraged kindergarten children to answer questions with as many possibilities as they could conceive, instead of enforcing this idea that there is only one answer in the back of the book. The study basically concluded that as we age, we lose the capacity to see multiple possible solutions to a problem. We are taught that there is only one answer and that is what we assume to believe. Ken Robinson closes his talk with the four things we need to solve before education systems will improve. First, we have to think differently about human capacity for knowledge. Second, we have to recognize the academia myth. Third, we have to recognize that kids learn best collaboratively and we should not isolate them and judge them separately. The final is the recognition of the habits of institutions and the habitats that they occupy.

"How to Escape Education's Death Valley"

Written by Caitlin Hinton
flowers in Death Valley, 2005
In this TED talk about education, Ken Robinson talks about how to escape educations death valley. Ken Robinson, who is a native of England, opens with the a joke about Americans not understanding irony. He then goes onto say that whoever came up with the title “No Child Left Behind,” clearly understands irony. He says that the legislation of “No Child Left Behind,” is actually leaving millions of children behind. In some parts of the country 60% of students drop out of school, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. The dropout crisis does not include the students who are actively in school but are completely disengaged from school. Robinson delivers three ways in which the human life flourishes and they are contradicted by the culture of education. The first being, human beings are naturally different and diverse. Robinson gives the illustration that if you have two children, more than likely they are completely different from one another. He states that education under “No Child Left Behind,” is not based on diversity, but conformity. Schools are encouraged to find out what students can do across a very narrow spectrum of achievement. Education should be well dispersed and equal throughout all subjects. Children prosper best with a broad curriculum that celebrates their various talents. The second principle by which human life flourishes is curiosity. Robinson says that if you can light the spark of curiosity in a child they will learn without any further assistance in most cases. Curiosity is the engine of achievement. Education is about learning and if there is no learning going on then there is no education. The role of a teacher is to facilitate learning. Robinson proposes that one of the problems is that the culture of education focuses not on teaching and learning but on testing. Testing should support learning not obstruct it. In place of curiosity is a culture of compliance. The third principle is that human life is inherently creative. Humans can create and recreate their lives. Education is supposed to awaken the powers of creativity but instead we have a culture of standardization. So with these three principles in mind, how do we escape educations death valley? Simply put, we bring to life what lies dormant in our students. We foster our students diversity, curiosity, and creativity. The education system is not a mechanical system, it is a human system. We must create a climate of possibility and by doing that our students will rise and flourish.

"The Importance of Creativity"

Written by Ashley Railey

Ken Robinson begins his lecture by explaining how children have extraordinary capacities for innovation. He believes that each child has an individual creative talent that teachers (or adults in general) ignore. Robinson says, “My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.”

Robinson continues his lecture with a few humorous jokes that keep the audience, and myself, laughing. He tells the story of his four year old son being in The Nativity Play when he was four. When the play begins, three four year boys come out as the kings who offer Jesus gold, myrrh, and frankincense. The first boy says, “I bring you gold”; the second boy says, “I bring you myrrh”; and the third boy says, “Frank sent this.” The point of his story is that children aren’t afraid of being wrong. This isn’t to say that being wrong is the same as being creative. Robinson states, “If you aren’t prepared to be wrong you will never come up with anything original.” By the time most children are adults they have developed a fear of being wrong. When education sells that mistakes are the worst thing a child can do, the result is that we are educating people out of their creativity.

Robinson explains how the current state of education models students to become college professors. Our society only focuses on math, science, and literacy. This only allows for the few students who are gifted in these areas to succeed.

I thought Robinson’s lecture was very entertaining and insightful. Personally, I don’t have a creative bone in my body, but I do appreciate art and literature. Our education system should embrace each child’s creativity. When students are learning about what they love, it provides them with more resources for a successful future.

Robinson ends his lecture with this powerful statement, “I believe our only hope for the future is to adopt a new conception of human ecology. One in which we start to reconstitute our conception of the richness of human capacity. Our education system has mined our minds in the way that we’ve stripped mined the Earth looking for a particular commodity, and for the future it won’t service.”

Project 15

1950s Vogue magazine cover

See my latest lesson plan

Friday, November 1, 2013

Blog Post #11

“Little Kids…Big Potential”

This is a very powerful video. In fact, I was humbled by it. Why? Mostly because it displays Mrs. Cassidy’s First Grade class employing technology I struggled with until my sophomore year of college. These kids are blogging and creating wiki pages to learn the alphabet . That’s a pretty incredible thought. Even more incredible are their responses to the use of this technology. Below are some particular student comments that stuck out to me.
“My writing gets better every time I write on my blog.”
“I can see that I sound out my words better.”
“I can choose whichever web page so I can help myself learn.”
Mrs. Cassidy’s first graders are not only learning to write using technology, they’re learning to learn (something most traditionally taught students, including myself, learned much later than the 1st grade—if at all).

What Technology I Plan to Use in my Classroom:

Unfortunately, for the age group I’d like to teach, I do not see the Nintendo ds being an appropriate technological tool to introduce to my students. I am certain Mrs. Cassidy’s first graders have great success using the ds’s to learn. However, I really found the use of wikis, blogs, and skype conferences with experts appealing. Wikis seem to me like a great way to consolidate units. I plan to incorporate blogging as a ten minute exercise at the beginning of every class to enhance writing skills. Skype conferences with members of my PLN will surely bring another opinion into the classroom and allow students individualized attention for their questions concerning the material.

What I Learned from the Skype Interview with Kathy Cassidy:

Considering the field I plan to teach, I listened most closely to Mrs. Cassidy’s advice on blogging. I believe that blogging can be a useful tool for students especially in a Composition class. Blogs also act as portfolios which students can review and are able to see how their writing has progressed. Blogs are also sort of a grade book for parents, since parents may access them whenever internet is available and review their student’s work. Mrs. Cassidy stated that “kids and technology go hand in hand”. After watching my two-year-old brother successfully operate an iPhone, I definitely believe this is the case. Furthermore, Mrs. Cassidy says that “we cannot teach kids in this generation using the tools that worked 20 years ago, 10 years ago, even 5 years ago. We have to change because the world has changed.” Our methods of educating must change with the world. The pen and paper ways of schooling have been antiquated. The most striking statement of Mrs. Cassidy’s (for me, anyway) was definitely this point: “why would a child want to write on paper so I can see it, when they can write on their blog and the whole world can see it?”
quill and scroll