Saturday, September 25, 2010

Activity 2 Reflection

Excel is a valuable productivity tool especially with the switch in teaching paradigms. Teaching used to be considered an art, but more and more it is becoming a science. Every instructional decision has to be backed up with data and Excel is a really nice way of managing numerical data.

The Excel assignment was a nice practice assignment for me, but not a real challenge. My AP sends me excel assignments to do for him all the time so the functions that we were using are something that I have a lot of experience with. We have a large database that contains all of the testing data for students in our county. This database allows us to query various reports and import the data into Excel for further adjustments. I use the conditional sort a lot.

I don't usually have multiple pages so it was neat to learn about the dynamic page changing. I could see that being really useful if something on each page needs changed like a header. I found the ExtraCredit option particularly interesting because I don't get into the statistical functions very often. I could see that as a nice quick and dirty check to evaluate correlations. I liked the context of checking the success of a test in comparison to the success of a homework assignment. That is a nice way to see which homework assigments may need tweeking to be more useful to the students.

I am not sure this is an either or question...

Is it more unethical to allow threats to students/schools or to deny students/teachers access to instructionally-relevant Web-based tools and content?

I think it would be unethical to not allow students (K-12) unrestricted internet access if the web was a necessity. However the web is not a necessity in a K-12 setting. I believe using a computer to do research is a necessity but there are many alternate means that are much more educationally focused for which to obtain information using a computer. When we are asked to do assignments, it is expected that our outside sources be scholarly in nature. As of now full web based scholarly outlets are still burgeoning. The number one resource for scholarly materials is journal databases. Even the poorest media centers have access to one or two journal databases.

With that said I believe we are moving to a place where unrestricted internet access will be a necessity and at that point it will be unethical to deny students access. Because of this transition state I think it is more unethical right now to deny teachers unrestricted access to the internet. Teachers need exposed to the possibilities now so that when we reach the time when unrestricted access is a necessity, they will have the skills to lead and guide students.

Having IT experience I know that it is possible to differentiate restrictions. It is possible for teacher computers to be defined in a large network and have open restrictions while student computers (or login accounts) have needed restrictions. There could even be a process for the student to engage in that would allow these restrictions to be lifted once the school’s liability was substantially reduced for that student

School districts would really much rather have unrestricted internet access. Unrestricted access is cheaper, there is less maintenance of equipment and fewer hardware/software compatibility issues. They are forced to restrict access because they have not been able to free themselves of the liability.

I believe that at an appropriate age or mentality a student’s actions should be able to be gauged. If it can be proven that the student intentionally abused the internet then the educational institution should not be liable. I think the best course of action for schools is to work towards getting students to an appropriate understanding of the dangers of the unrestricted internet usage thus removing the legal liability that fuels so much of the reasoning for blocking access to the internet. I believe that ISTE’s NETS standards lay out a really nice framework for moving in this direction.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Wendy Drexler is a Genius

Wendy Drexler is a Genius!

This assignment is brilliant! Finally a practical application for blogs and constructivism! I love the way that the RSS Reader and the Blogs could be used to measure how much knowledge had been gained on a particular subject, not to mention the final project. This really fits in with where the chapter alludes that we are heading. People are connected and our schooling should reflect that and tap into that connection. All of our media outlets are going to the internet. It’s only a matter of time until televisions with ANSI tuners will not be necessary because all of your television will stream to your house. And eventually the Internet will be completely wireless and mobile broadband (controlled by the cell phone companies right now) will become the standard by which the internet is delivered to the user.

I see the mobile broadband as the future because until home internet accessibility is equitable for all K-12 students, teachers aren’t going to be able to take that next step with digital assignments(like the assignment in the video). This student obviously had internet at home and a good command of computer skills. Mobile Broadband is the only feasible option for a school district. There is no way that a school district is going to contract with a company using a cabled network (RoadRunner, Comcast). Having to install at each house would be too costly. Contracting with the cell phone companies on a student rate for the Mobile Broadband and the USB receiver makes so much more sense. No lines to run and cell service is already everywhere people are. Eventually all cell towers will support 3G and 4G technology so that data transport will be even quicker.

The next question will be getting modern computers into the hands of students and how does a school system support laptops/netbooks? And how do school districts avoid the courtroom? Does anyone have any ideas?

I don’t have an idea yet for making modern technology equitable and available to students, but I do have an idea for filtering the types of content students could get into using the school provided internet service. O.K. , The manufacturer of the Mobile Broadband USB receivers will be hard coded with a default gateway address that routes them through an approved web filter. We use “Websense” in our school district and it would just be a matter of upgrading the routers within the cell towers, a cost to the Cell companies that will probably be covered by Government Money.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Further defense of first post.

I came under fire recently for my first post. Some of the fire was deserved and have since apologized for my insensitive conjectures but I still defend my central premise. I am hesitant to judge the teacher's reluctance to use technology especially those who did not grow up with it. We're in the middle of a huge paradigm shift and until the entire population of teachers who aren't digital natives are replaced we will continue to see refusal to conform no matter how much support is provided. Even when they are replaced we will have a new stratum of teachers; from ones who are doing technology well to those who aren’t. Since I started my Ed. Tech masters I feel as though I have been inundated with an ideology that Web 2.0 is the technological/educational proverbial messiah. Regular ed. Classroom teachers have so much more that they are accountable for. I really think a lot of them would love to get involved with technology but there is only so much that they can do well during a day.

The reason for this is time. Teaching has changed from an Art to a Science. Proper lesson planning consumes so much more time than it used to. Teachers have to analyze data and create individualized instruction not just for the student's with IEP's but for everyone or at least small groups. With the new ESE inclusion model teachers have to plan for students that they never had to. The world of teaching has changed and there is more than just technology to learn right now.

With this eventually comes the part where teachers have the right to say "I need to go home." Teachers could be at work all night planning and preparing lessons, keeping up on their e-mail and parent correspondence. But there comes a time where you have to say "I have put in enough time today" I have a life beyond these walls and I have a right to it. Let me follow that up by saying that I a not defending the teachers who walk out the door every day 15 minutes early with recycled lesson plans for the past 30 years. Those teachers need fired. But there does come a time where you've done as much or above what a human should be expected to do during the day for the meager salary one receives.

Aaron Huestis

Searching Made Easy

In my experience with searches there isn’t much that I can’t find using Google. If something has been put in on the web Google can find it with the right refinements to the search criteria. So for me Google has almost always been my first and last stop. For graduate school, obviously I have had to use the library’s subscription resources but other than that I use Google for everything. In their advanced search I can limit my searches to specific file types. I use this feature within Google to find pre-made instructional Power Points. Teachers can then use these as a starting point and refine as necessary.

I manage my school’s website with input from teachers and especially the media specialist. Together we have made a wealth of supplemental information available to the students. The media center’s management software is run by Follett is online. Students in our district can access the database of available materials within their immediate media center and they can also browse the resources of any other school in the district. We have also provided links to the Public Library Coop so that students can browse the materials in their local library and the libraries in the county. Through Sunlink, students have the ability to browse other libraries in the state and use interlibrary loan. In conjunction with the selection of media we use Accelerated Reader and the link for using the home test database is also posted for parents and students.

For research purposes we have posted links to all of our districts subscription services. We provide the student’s access to InfoTrack, World Book, Searchasaurus, and Ebscohost. Students also have a link to the Florida Library Association’s “Ask A Librarian”. A new service being offered is NetTrekker. NetTrekker is a safe search engine for our younger students who don’t necessarily have to browse through an abyss of scholarly articles to find information about Christopher Columbus, Sacajawea and Ohio’s major industries.

Teachers have links as well. For our reading teachers we have links to TumbleBooks, a website where students can have popular stories read to them. Teachingbooks is a wealth of instructional books for any subject. They have over 27,000 titles.
The district website has links to many of these sources plus many others.

The district site provides a link to Compass Odyssey, an online learning management software for individualized instruction. Teachers can assign individualized homework to their students and students can complete these computer based lessons in school or at home on their own time. Students also have access to their blackboard classes through the district website. The district website provides links and resources for students with special needs. My favorite resource is Natural Reader. Natural Reader will read any digital text from a website or a word processing document. Any text that can by copied and pasted into natural reader will be read. I like to use it to listen to scholarly articles or the sports page. The digitized voice is free but the upgrade to human sounding voice costs money.

The district website also houses our district curriculum maps. These maps have the standard, LFS(Learning Focused Strategy), links to enrichment activities, corresponding videos and graphic organizers. The maps are the life blood for our teachers. They guide our instruction and because of our student mobility rate they attempt to keep all schools on the same instructional page to prevent as many disruptions in student learning as possible.

FLDOE website has links tailored specifically to federal and state opportunities. There are links to bullying, drug and gang awareness. The site also explains parent/guardian rights as well as state/federal funded initiatives to promote learning, equity and advancement for under-represented populations.