Archive for December, 2009

Altering Primary Source Documents?

In September’s issue of Social Education, researchers Martin and Wineburg (2009) argue that many students will be daunted by such assignments which require them to read historical documents. “They will scratch their heads over its archaic phrasing and obscure terminology, and a context foreign at best and positively inscrutable at worse” (p. 212). They suggest “adapting” primary sources so that all students, regardless of reading level, can benefit:

We are urging teachers to physically alter sources: to change their syntax and vocabulary; to conventionalize their spelling, capitalization, and punctuation—even rearranging sentence sequences, if necessary—so that eleventh graders reading at a sixth grade level might benefit some of the flavor, cadence, feel, and ethos of John Smith’s (or Augustine’s, or Jefferson’s, or Frederick Douglass’s) words. We are unabashedly urging teachers to tamper with history (p. 212).

The researchers are aware that this concept completely contradicts the beliefs of many teachers; however, they argue that the alteration of sources is a form of scaffolding which allows readers at lower levels to develop, “those skills of interpretation and inference that define a proficient reader” (p. 216). Exposing students to sources which they can not comprehend is meaningless, and providing them with none at all is a disservice.

In addition to arguing that to inhibit students from experiencing the “feelings and attitudes” which a primary source document may contain, it is the role of teachers to ensure that students’ conclusions are valid and based on accurate information. The validity of their conclusions can be jeopardized by an inability to comprehend the information presented in a source rather than the source itself. Like all scaffolding, these measures can be gradually taken away.

I thought that this was a pretty neat and simple way for social studies teachers to aid students with reading comprehension skills, particularly those who are struggling.

Martin, D. & Wineburg, S. (2009). Tampering with history: Adapting primary sources for struggling readers. Social education 73(5), 212-216.


Digital Humanities Final Blog

Final Thoughts:
After taking this class, I have adapted a much less resistant and fearful attitude towards technology, even applying newfound knowledge to outside assignments. Using digital tools and applications still proves to be a weakness of mine (anything technical takes a bit longer than it should to complete); however, with practice, it is beginning to come more quickly.

Gradually, I coming to terms with the fact that societal norms of communication are shifting. Major news networks, such as CNN, now use social networking tools (Twitter and Facebook) as forums for public discussion, reading viewer opinions on the air. This once angered me, as I viewed such tools as unprofessional.

None-the-less, communication using social networking sites is even more widespread among younger generations; this can be used to the advantage of the teacher. Students are more effectively engaged in the content material if it is presented in a manner which is familiar and relevant to them. More specifically, if students participate in a process of ‘self-discovery,’ they are more likely to engage in meaningful learning.

The Keynote address in the K-12 Online Conference suggests that engaging in formative learning experiences through connections and collaboration with individuals of other cultures will change the classroom dynamic. Rather than having the teacher dominate classroom learning, students play a greater role in determining what they learn, thus increasing interest and self-efficacy. Such connections and collaboration also provides students with relevant experiences from which they can draw on in the future. By incorporating tools and connecting with other individuals, teachers provide students with a model of how new technologies can be applied productively.

It is important to effectively integrate technology into the classroom instruction as well as model potential functions. Technology must be used as a resource and tool for learning rather than an afterthought. This is essential to bridging the gap between traditional methods of instruction and the digital age of the 21st Century. We are preparing students for a world which relies on technological innovations and tools which are rapidly outdated and job that are not in existence yet. Therefore, as teachers, our energy is better spent promoting critical thought and analysis regarding the use and applications of a technology rather than a perfected mastery.

I am looking forward to continued attempts to develop technical skills and exposure to new tools and applications next semester. I’m not sure I will ever catch-up or stay caught up; yet, as I previously stated, my time and energy is better spent promoting critical thought and analysis rather than a perfected mastery.

Goals for next semester:
-learn to use the Smartboard!
-incorporate technology into more lessons
-give students the opportunity to gain experience using a variety of computer programs and software
-increase use of digitized history artifacts and images available online
-incorporate review games, puzzles, etc. in a manner which students enjoy (in hopes of tempting them to deviate their attention from Facebook for a few moments to glance at course material)
-master quickly and efficiently uploading and converting files
-familiar myself with new online tools through which to incorporate into lessons and collaborate with other teachers
-learn to identify and remove Viruses which bring about the ‘blue screen of death’
-use technology to more efficiently complete daily tasks and assignments (I am particularly resistant to this, i.e. using an electronic calendar/date-book)

K-12 Online Conference: You Might Be a 21st Century Leader if…

You Might Be a 21st Century Leader if…
Presenter: David Wells

21st Century leadership requires dialog, establishing the core values of a school, the way students learn, and how good teachers teach. Leadership and technology must be intertwined, with technology integrated into leadership. David Well’s presentation uses the comparison of ISLLC and NETS*A Standards to show that technology standards are not merely “add-ons.” To be an effective leader and meet these standards, technology’s role is integral: “it is the way we do business.”

The presentation discusses school districts’ shift in spending from textbooks and other curriculum materials to computers, which allows teachers to be more “flexible.” Textbooks often become outdated quickly, and fail to match the curriculum. Other resources, such as video collections, are now available online as well. While the shift to computers may in fact be less expensive, Dr. Wells fails to mention the costs of maintaining up to date computer networks and infrastructures.

With communication and collaboration through tools such as Twitter, blogs, and online forums, schools can keep moving forward with the “digital age.” These tools are helpful in maintaining awareness of local, state, and national politics which relate to education. It is important to keep up with current trends in order to advocate for “digital age tools appropriate for learning.” National programs and organizations provide a useful medium, as well as social networks such as Twitter. Dr. Wells concludes the presentation by emphasizing that effective leaders don’t need to do things entirely differently; rather, they should make use of technology to get the job done.

The description of technology being used as an “add-on” struck a chord with me. Prior to college, I often felt as though this was the case. Teachers gave us assignments, which were usually completed without the aid of computers. Once complete, the class was taken to the computer lab as a group in so we could type and format our completed assignments. We had to meet a variety of nit-picky requirements to display that we had used a variety of “computer skills.” Rather than completing assignments using technology as a means of information and presentation, we used completed assignments to present our understanding of basic computer skills. It is important to effectively integrate technology into classroom instruction, using it as a resource and tool for learning rather than an afterthought. We are preparing students for a world which relies on technological innovations and tools which are rapidly outdated. Therefore, as teachers, our energy is better spent promoting critical thought and analysis regarding the use and applications of a technology rather than a basic mastery.

K-12 Online Conference: Building Teacher Websites

Options for Building Your Teacher Website and Why YOU Should
Presenter: Cyndi Danner-Kuhn

Cyndi Danner-Kuhn stressed that every educator should build and maintain a classroom website in order to provide efficiency, resources, and connections. She argues that ultimately it will help instructors gain teaching time; although, initially it may take some time to create. Students will also gain access to more curriculum resources and experience using digital resources, accessibility and communication with parents increases, and students regard their teachers as ‘connected.’ Instructions are provided for Mac-users and for PC-users, a number of free websites and tools are provided with examples.

I was unaware that Macs come with “I-Web?” Given the cost of Microsoft Expression and other programs, I may reconsider my loyalty to PC’s. As I learn of new tools and applications to incorporate into instruction, I am finding that perhaps a Mac may be better suited for the job. For example, earlier this semester while struggling to master the very basics of videos files (recording, downloading, trimming, converting, uploading, etc.) I noticed that my classmates who used Mac’s had a much easier time with the process. Their computers were better equipped with compatible programs.

Until I win the lottery, I am going to have to make due with alternative resources for composing class websites. Suggested free resources include:
*Requires software to be downloaded and installed, for more advanced users.

The presentation got me thinking about what I need to include on my future website and how I should go about organizing it. I definitely need to provide contact information for parents and students, a syllabus, homework assignments (including worksheets, materials, etc. for those students who have a tendency to lose/forget things), study materials, and updates of what we are doing in the classroom. To take it a step further, I could include newsletters, post students’ projects, images, links to outside resources, study games and activities, etc. As suggested in the presentation, students can even develop their own websites linked off of the class one through which they can display their work and create a portfolio of sorts.

Concluding the presentation, the presenter reminds instructors to keep in mind their classroom needs and available technology, to be realistic about personal design skills, and remember that when posted, the website is available to anyone on the web. The privacy rights of students must be kept in mind.

K-12 Online Conference: 2009 Preconference Keynote

Going Global: Culture Shock, Convergence & the Future of Education

First, the presenter uses analogies to compare the 21st Century traits of Asian cultures and the needs of education. Second, the ideal characteristics of a globally oriented student are given, emphasizing that physical re-location is no longer necessary for immersion and convergence. The third and final, section of the presentation, provides a step-by-step plan for teachers to begin promoting formative interactive learning experiences through collaboration using multimedia tools.

1. Culture Shock
Culture shock refers to the varying degrees of discomfort one experiences when he or she realizes how different other cultures are which can last for varying amounts of time. According to the presenter, this collision of cultures is not always negative: the collision can be inspiring, promoting “challenged and energized thinking.” The author relates schools of the future through the observance of various Asian culture traits; all of these traits have an over-arching theme of being adaptable and flexible to change and innovation:

Mobility: allowing students to learn wherever. Customization: leave with just what you want; should strive to provide personalized educations

Adaptability: schools must find additional ways of realistically and nimbly adapting to the ‘status quo’

Always On: the “ringing of the school bell every afternoon does not mean that learning should stop;” learning should take place when it best meets the needs of the student (online learning, a-synchronization)

Collaboration: students should not learn from and share work with a single teacher; no reason for students or teachers to work in solitude

Quick: schools are far too slow to change or accomplish new initiatives, they need to focus on how to respond to new situations and meet students needs in a fast-moving world

Blending of Old & New: incorporate technology into life when it is useful; use thoughtful integration combined with traditional to bring best of both worlds

Just In-time Delivery: teach what is only valuable only today

No Fixed Values: education is too often financially and ideologically inflexible; however, online universities offer new models of education; individualized learning plan to serve the student; with such options will our current educational system be able to maintain itself?

Global: students should be able to “quickly and smoothly incorporate foreign influences…fusion…blending…of others with their own,” and where there are differences, they need global perspective

2. Convergence
Using “third-culture-kids” as a model of the ideal student (a student who has grown-up entirely outside of their native, or “passport” culture and feels as though he or she is a citizen of all countries), the author emphasizes their strengths and abilities stemming from their cultural experiences. These abilities can be replicated using modern technology. Through immersion, opportunities for students to develop unique attributes allow for easier adaption and flexibility in new situations and the use of collaboration to resolve problems across linguistic and cultural boundaries. Such immersion begins as tolerance; however, it will develop into greater empathy and appreciation. Students are in need of authentic experiences to deepen their understandings and increased multicultural perspectives.

3. Future of Education
Today, formative interactive experiences can occur anywhere with the use of technological innovations. In order to provide students with connections, teachers must first develop their own connections, expanding their “Personal Learning Networks” (PLN). PLN’s refer to the group of people who one collaborates and learns from on a regular basis or the people whom they choose to be their colleagues. By incorporating tools and connecting with other individuals, teachers act as a model to students.

The presenter suggests that engaging in formative learning experiences through connections and collaboration with individuals of other cultures will change the classroom dynamic. Rather than having the teacher dominate classroom learning, students play a greater role in determining what they learn, thus increasing interest and self-efficacy. Such connections and collaboration also provides students with relevant experiences from which they can draw on in the future.

In a few of my classes, professors have suggested that we foster direct communication between our students and those of other cultures. Previously, this concept has always come across as a logistical nightmare to me. After watching this presentation and being given step-by-step instructions for how to begin, the task seems much simpler. I am also a bit shocked with regards to how hassle-free viewing the presentations in this conference has been (even via my disaster of a computer), making this concept all the more plausible.

K-12 Online Conference Teasers

K12Online09 Teaser
Wesley Fryer
An “animoto” teaser promoting the upcoming conference, the theme being “bridging the divide.” Apparently I live under a rock; I have never seen anything like this and not sure when I would have learned about it had I not been assigned to in class. How many languages is this thing in? Everyone on one website at once for a ”
live “fireside chat?”

Remixing History Teaser
Neil Stephenson
The teaser introduces Neil Stephenson and his class history project. Students used the internet to explore various imagery and created cigar boxes to tell the story. Stephenson is interested in whether teaching history using imagery can be applied to digitized resources and history can be taught through these online sources…Interesting concept; my first reaction is that it only addresses one learning style.

The Heroic Journey Teaser
Kevin Hodgson
A very short promotional piece for his session on using Google Earth with literature and writing. He sets up the scenario: students must find their way home across the treacherous terrain of the Earth. Kind of cool…

Mr. Winkle Wakes
Mathew Needleman
“Rip Van Winkle awakes after one hundred years and visits a school.” This pretty much sums up how I feel right about now (and whenever I go to digital humanities class; in fact, until just now, I had never even bothered to put together why it’s ‘called digital humanities).’ The traditional methods of teaching through lecture in such a technologically advanced world is a bit ironic when you describe it like this. “Even after 100 years, some things remain the same.” We are preparing students for a future which is nothing like traditional education…

You Might Be a 21st Century Leader if…teaser
David Wells
This one struck a chord with me. “As a leader you build relationships with students…you have to prepare them for their future. But what skills do you need as a 21st century leader?” Definitely sounds useful to me.

Carol Broos
“This is the teaser “For Those Who Want to Rock, Compose!” Week Two: December 14-17, 2009.” After watching the video, I still have no idea what it is about…?

I watched a bunch of other trailers because I was fascinated. The RSS trailer was an eye-opener. Glad to know what all those crazy buttons on the news sites are for…The Living – History Teaser by Jane Ross was pretty cool; I loved the digital museum the kids compiled their findings in.

In addition to the keynote address, I plan on attending:

Bridging History Using Web 2.0 Tools
Robin Beaver
Rosemont, PA, USA

Google SketchUp Unleashed
Joseph J. Bires
Trenton, NJ, USA

Options for Building Your Teacher Website
Cyndi Danner-Kuhn
Manhattan, KS, USA