Sunday, July 12, 2015

Final Reflection

      As a digital immigrant and techno-traditionalist, the idea of “building/creating” a web-based application was a little overwhelming to consider. Thankfully, the pace of the class and emphasis on process versus product allowed me to venture with less anxiety than a final assessment would typically induce. The process provided me the opportunity to engage in a pedagogical reform that I can implement in the fall. Otherwise, applications and digital tools would have remained something I read about, shared with colleagues and mentees, and something “other” people did. You could say I was not a technology risk taker. As a result of being “pushed” into creation mode, I believe I will be able to create a hybrid pedagogy for my teachers and bring them along at whatever stage they are at; and I intend to grow and learn beside them.

        My decision to create a LiveBinder for my mentees was not my first choice because it lacks the creativity and beauty some of the other tools offer. It sounds simple, but something more visually appealing, colorful, and interactive interested me. However, the most practical resource that my teachers would find beneficial is LiveBinder. I typically provide hard and electronic copies to my teachers communicating everything from informational flyers and documents to official forms and templates that are part of the evaluation process or district mandated lesson planning expectations. Sending these documents clogs up email, becomes redundant and tedious for me. This system is weak; it is too heavily reliant on me “the person” in the system my teachers depend on to communicate this information to them. It is more empowering for them to have one location to access everything they need.

Although LiveBinder still requires my time, effort, and energy, it minimizes my revisiting the same documents and also provides one place for teachers to access these required documents in the event they lose or delete them from their email. They have more control of accessing information because is always “live” versus contacting me to pass information to them. This is important because as new and veteran teachers in the district, learning where to investigate for resources is important because they will not always have a mentor to lean on. Also, our PPSD district site tends to bury a lot of valuable information that teachers do not even know exists because it is simply too complicated to find or stumble upon when perusing the site. Hyperlinks, which is a new skill for me, will also aid in connecting my teachers to information!  

In addition, I am exploring LiveBinder as an opportunity to provide different avenues for professional growth in the form of articles, videos, and other topics my teachers may not have previously considered in their practice. For example, a binder with a list of children’s books that address prejudices could serve as an avenue teachers had not previously thought of exploring.

The first thing I did was populate my page with binder titles I knew I would gather materials for and populate: Who are our students?, Cross-Content Graphic Organizers, PPSD Employee Resources, Inspiration,  Children’s Books that Address Prejudice, Educator Evaluation Documents, ESL Resources, Group Participation Structures, Reading Strategies (before-during-after). Then I began populating the binders appropriately with my electronic collection of professional resources. As I was uploading and populating the binders, more binder topics flowed into my mind, which I will pursue as I continue to work on my site.

The other technology I am constructing is in the form of a blog where my teachers, although I will open it to all teachers in the community, can go to for support from each other. They can serve as professional resources to one another and build upon their own teacher leadership in the form of mentoring one another. This also serves as evidence for Standard IV of the evaluation rubric they will be expected to produce. More important than evaluation purposes, I am hoping to build an authentic professional learning community and safe environment where teachers can engage with each other in a “risk-free” zone to explore the successes and challenges of urban teaching and learning. It may be a lofty vision, but it could perhaps be a transformative step in their development as individuals as well as a community.  

         One small action step I plan to focus more on with my teachers in the fall is the critical eye towards media that needs to be developed in the students. Maybe my experience as an ELA teachers for many years leads me to take for granted the emphasis on evaluation of sources and questioning “evidence” before it is cited as fact, but this is a skill that teachers should be developing with teachers and I will make it a point to include this for them to consider when I lesson plan with them and works closely developing units. The theory on Wikipedia as a transparent form of information available to us due to system in place to evaluate the newly added information and the collective knowledge used to construct it was very powerful for me. I think teachers are quick to dismiss the site, but it could be a point of learning for teachers and students alike, especially because of its strong presence on the web and its important role in pop culture.
        One thing I can't wait to share with my teachers is the PechaKucha format for presenting!  I think the kids will have a blast with that!  I also think when we plan PD for our teachers, it could be a cool thing to model for them so they can see it in action and be inspired to implement it with the students! it found it difficult to commit to a script, but the creative/collage process forced me think about exactly what I wanted to say in the same way. Language for me comes more organically, so writing an actual "speech" was hard because I kept changing the ideas and words I tried to commit to, but with practice I could do it.  And my experience in doing my own will also be valuable for my teachers to hear about and giggle with me about how excruciating it was for me!

The most important action step, and what I believe will be the most impactful in terms of my own professional growth and intellectual engagement as a result of this course, is to not back away from technology or lean on “the boys” to produce, connect, or tap into all of the technology our team uses. I plan to collaborate more with one colleague in particular who will mentor me and invest time with me on new technological endeavors. I am hoping this will create a professional learning community among us, as learners and producers of digital technology. The idea will be to develop more of the technological side of the mentoring practice and work with teachers to implement hybrid learning experiences for their students as well. Some of the tools are user-friendly enough for teachers to dive into without a ton of studying or preparation, similar to the experience we had in class this session with immediately creating a blog and experimenting with the technology tools in small groups on the second day.

        By taking steps to create in the digital word, rather than always consume, I am at the very beginning stages of Noon’s techno-constructivist category. The biggest benefit I see as a constructivist is the empowerment that can be gained as a result of engaging in new media and contributing to the vast world the web offers. It has the ability to be the strongest form of personalized instruction and growth if one is willing to commit to the process and exploring exactly what exists and what can be developed.

This experience aligns me more to the youth I serve because I am “hacking” into their world. It will serve as another tool I can use to relate to them and share that will my teachers so they can do the same. This process has provided a great amount of growth in a very short time. It was the most effective use of classroom time I have ever experienced. 
narrative context -    X
Who am I? -                         X
3 course themes -                  X
something new -       X      
hyperlinks -                                     X       
writing style -                       X
writing skills -          X                                           

Friday, July 10, 2015


This is my PechaKucha

LiveBinder Link

I hope this LiveBinder resource is helpful for the educators of Providence! I am going to continue to populate it with things I hope they will find helpful!  Please come check it out and use what you think may be helpful for you!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The relationship between Turke and Wesch

Turkle shared many interesting observations about technology's impact on interpersonal relationships. The most fascinating I thought was about the relationship we have with ourselves. Does technology hinder our ability to cope with being alone - not being lonely - but with being alone and knowing ourselves and our own wants and desires?

The suggestion I appreciated most was to spend some time each day to disconnect, regroup, and process our own wants and desires. This is an important part of self-development in order to better connect with others.

Wesch is more concerned with technology as a tool to make education relevant - something more than a checklist students have to address. So he is concerned with fostering meaningful conversations and interactions among his students, but using technology to do so. His methodology reminded me of the activity we did in class - researching the princesses and filling in the graphic organizer as a group. He uses it to create more interaction and thought among his students by the way of longer term projects. And this is the beauty of technology - people like Wesch seem to be manipulating it to meet the ever changing needs of students who rely it for everything.

It seems that both Turkle and Wesch are more connected than disconnected in terms of adapting how we interact with technology. Wesch is concerned about utilizing it in to its fullest advantage in the classroom as a tool to create more meaningful interactions. What is the significance of a seminar room for 500 people when information exists already at the touch of a few buttons and clicks? The way he is recreating his classroom environment is brilliant, tapping into the collectivist approach that technology naturally breeds. I see that Turkle is also concerned with environment in relationship to technology - but interpersonal - not academic - environments. The solutions about unplugging and disconnecting in order to connect more to others is what will ultimately sustain who we are as humans - not a robot or piece of machinery. The alternative is a scary place - a world that is soo heavily reliant and dependent upon technology that interacting in a meaningful way with someone is awkward and something (as the 16 year old put it) that has to be eventually learned.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Intro. & Coca-Cola

The introduction of the book contextualized our conversation yesterday nicely. The big message I read is the importance to continue to ask critical questions and analyze the infiltration of messages that reach our students from "Go."

It also highlights the origin of these message - from a just a few (relatively speaking) corporate giants. One glaring sentiment I hear among teachers is... He/she can't get a notebook for class, but has new Nikes and an iPhone...  I would suggest that it isn't a very conscious decision for a student to prioritize between a notebook or "fitting" in - the values that have been deemed of the utmost importance are certainly NOT blaring from ESPN with the MVP of the NBA preaching about school and being prepared for it. Those messages instead are reserved for PSAs - funny how it's called  a
"service." Is it because the famous cast starring in them do it for free? I suppose it's better than nothing, it's just sad that it has to exist at all in order to combat for space in the midst of the other messages.

A few years back, the school store at a high school I worked at would net about $20,000 a year. Those funds paid for prom, the senior picnic, yearbooks, graduation regalia -- it was a fund for the students.

When a new company won the contract with the school department, they shut down the school store due to the no competition clause. I understand protecting students from the Coca-Cola message/marketing/branding in schools. But there is something very dirty and sinister about going after the funds that support the most poverty stricken students in the state. Maybe because I witnessed it first-hand - how the numbers of attendees at prom declined, leftover yearbooks that became a loss to the school, etc.... It has been about 9 years ... $180,000...and it still makes my stomach turn to think about it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

My friend invited me to join her in Disney world in November - she prefaced it with, "I know how you feel about Disney....but..."

I have accidentally offended her more than once about her children's (2 daughters) obsession with Disney princesses. The money, the idealistic beauty of the princesses, the princesses happily ever after story, the rescue from a "prince" that never actually shows up in real life.... and the list goes on.

My parents brought me to Disney once - at 13 years old. It was fun. Space Mountain was my favorite! 

My Mom read to me every night when I was little - I assume she also read me princess/Disney stories. But more so, she read me chapter books. My favorite was "Old Yeller." I think this experience with literacy informed my ambivalence to Disney - I could give or take it. More so, I tried to steal my brother's GI Joes and Transformers and bike.  Until my parents finally got me my own electric 4 wheeler at around the age of 5. The other thing I was obsessed with is puzzles - tree and geography puzzles.  

The other thing that protected me from the "love" of Disney is my Mom's traditional cultural and family values - my room was decorated in traditional colonial style.  And when I was growing up, MTV was also off limits! So, my Mom unknowingly ( I think ) instilled other little obsessions in me.

....The ride from the airport to the Disney "Compound" (I had to - she was supposed to go with her husband who she was not getting a divorce from) was unsettling to say the least.  The airport has been Disneyified.  The coach buses have screens that come down and "Disney people" talk to you -- THE ENTIRE RIDE (about 40 minutes). My friend allowed me to have my reaction about brainwashing - then I tried to let it go for the next 48 hours so we could enjoy ourselves.

Brave was cool because the Princess was subversive and challenged her family to secure her own fate. I would say it is a start. It was a little disappointing at the end because the princess ended up taking on "This is all my fault..." guilt. Can the kids access the message - fight for and be committed to yourself and live in your truth? The extreme she had to go to live her in truth was a lot - Mom turned into a bear.  Would children be able to connect the dots that a paradigm shift has to happen among the parents? Why did Mom have to nearly be killed by Dad? Did she have to lose her 3 brothers to "bearhood" for her to live in her truth?

It was cool that the princess was the heroine and "saved" mom - cool because it wasn't her dad or another man. It's a start. She created the problem, then solved it for herself - that is great. She relied on the witch and her 3 baby brothers, not another man. She was also strong in all of the "male" activities - archery, fishing, riding a horse, speaking up, etc...

It is a start. I would love to see a "princess" live in her truth without it being prompted by romance or a man.

Another weird thing, why soo much cleavage from the house maid?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Digital Natives: Don't Assume Anything

It sounds like such a cool thing to be labeled, digital native. The term presumes some superior knowledge of one's "home." And, in my experience, it's always better to navigate a city with a native - they know the hot spots and the shortcuts and best deals in town! Having a native by your side in a new city brings a sense of security because there is an inherent reliance on their knowledge that someone you will benefit from.

There are some overlooked pitfalls in assigning all of these beliefs to students’ knowledge of technology. By overestimating a student’s digital native skills, critical teaching and learning opportunities are missed – or worse, not even considered by educators. Consider the mishap with MySpace Boyd mentions, as a parallel to what could be happening every day: students could be (and are) figuring things out independently - problem solving, taking risks, investigating, writing, etc… all valued and standards based pursuits but  perhaps unbeknownst to the educator in front of them. What would it look like if a teacher was able to capture this/these pockets of learning in the form of a valid assessment instrument for students?

I thought Boyd’s date on Wikipedia and students’ perception of it as a valid source of information was fascinating. With the push towards portfolio based graduation requirements for high school students – and the research paper component – there is constant buzz about “reliable sources” and review about how to critique sources as valid. She offers an interesting and very 2.0 perspective, the idea that Wikipedia may have more checks and balances for validity because it is a public forum and because there are people “assigned” to assess how information is evolved. It is entirely transparent. Isn’t that an interesting way for students to engage in gleaning information about content as well as process?

I think Wesch might think this would be a good replacement for the “information recall on multiple-choice exams” he suggests are easy for teachers to correct. His observations, aside from hilarious (because don’t students always say the funniest things! “I Facebook during most of class”) are an important factor in addressing the gap between the educational system catching up to what technology has to offer, especially in the 2.0 world.

Wesch’s observations about the state of infrastructure in schools do inhibit the potential “brick and mortal” classrooms offer. How can this be reconciled? Will the world of education always be galaxies away from the world of technology? How can we keep up to best serve our students and to help shape future generations of thinkers and thoughtful consumers and producers of technology?

I think it's irresponsible for educators to assume there is nothing to teach our students in regards to technology and HOW to navigate it. It is also neglectful to think we can rely on their native expertise to happen upon learning - by chance - and not with deliberately planned learning activities.