Archive for EDTECH541

EDTECH 541 2011 Summer-y

I used to be an IT  know-it-all…one of those people whom others would seek out for technological advice and help, and for whom nothing could not be conquered with a work-around. But my days were numbered and  I knew with every passing week that my superior skills were evaporating into  the chasm of once-was.  So I decided to pursue another graduate degree and give my rusty mental circuits new pathways on which to travel.

EdTech541 looked interesting and right up my alley. With its promise of web design and technology integration, I greedily reached for the new information. Then my life hit a road bump and sent me in a new direction. Despite all the uncertainty, I was still able to produce a product that I will use in teacher professional development and other adult learning environments.

By week four, I had just found out that my daughter needed serious medical attention for what was initially presumed to be a common urinary tract infection. I toyed with dropping the courses, knowing that I was going to be driving a lot given the distance between specialists. I e-mailed my instructors asking if I should drop the courses, but heard no indication that I should do so, and after the weekend determined to go for it.  I had never struggled so hard in my life to understand concepts as I have this summer. I have been consistently late in my coursework in every class – watching my elitist ego plummet along with my perfect GPA. 

One can’t get too far in education without learning about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and this summer my educational goals were trumped by my family’s need. The constant stress and worry has put theory into practice.  My ability to learn was physically diminished as my clarity of thinking was constantly interrupted by professional, service, educational, and personal demands.  Lack of sleep robbed me of optimism. Every assignment took twice as long as it probably should have to complete , and I spent hours revising mistakes I had made. What I did learn was that I have become inflexible and (probably) unapproachable with my own face to face students. I want to remember my summer’s experience in order to give students the benefit of the doubt while at the same time, holding them accountable for the tasks that have been assigned.

One benefit was the hours spent in waiting rooms gave me time to read the course text. I am an ISTE member, and use the NETS standards (2010) in course development and teacher professional development, so I was excited to see the course text use these professional standards as a foundation for the tasks at hand.

I am trying to convince my technology committee, administration, and school board to allow personal mobile devices within the school building. I believe the future is now, and when we insist that our students disconnect from their devices, we are fostering a disconnect from their education.  This course has given me tools to use to present research-based evidence that technology integration improves learning. The key is planning. Teachers must plan for activities that are rich with technology rather than letting technology activities take the place of teaching.

I have always been partial to inquiry-based theories, although I am open to discussion about other schools of thought, as well. This might be evident in a review of my database lesson plan. Although not an original plan, developing the database lesson to fit students in our geographic area took time because I had to develop questions that could be researched and answered, and determine the modifications necessary to make it a local fit.  My most beneficial assignment was that in which we identified strategies across the curriculum. My resources page keeps growing – not to impress anyone, but so that I won’t forget what I want to take back to my colleagues in the fall. This course will be beneficial for years to come as I use the products that I developed in my job as IT coordinator.

I performed an assistive technologies review three years ago when a student of mine  was involved in a water rescue. He experienced severe back injuries from a diving accident and is quadriplegic a resulting tracheotomy left him speechless. At the time tablets were not yet on the market, but he did have a school-issued laptop for at-home and school use. To repeat the research such a short time later has fostered astonishing results. Technologies such as voice to text (or vice versa) that were unavailable or were cost prohibitive at that time  now have presence in the $.99 iApps-Market.  I found the authors of our text making an interesting observation about beginning with low-tech solutions before moving into high tech as the needs dictate (p. 412)

I found blogging to be a perfect fit for reflection, but having to blog for a number of courses along with discussion forums left little allowance for reflective practice in such a compressed course. Even without other events in my life, writing takes time and revision and I always feel my blogs are somehow lacking consistent depth and detail. I do however, prefer the conversational style of a blog over the formality of an essay, as Richard Mayer (2004) is quoted in our text.

As I pointed out earlier, timeliness was lacking in all that I did this summer. My responses are lacking as well. Of the 235 points on blogging, I would be surprised to receive 180 points.

All in all, it has been a great course. The instructor modeled the concepts taught and I would highly recommend it to colleagues whether or not they plan to teach or develop online courses.

References:

International Society for Technology in Education. (2010). Standards. Retrieved June 13, 2011, from ISTE: http://www.iste.org/standards/nets-for-students.aspx

Mayer, R., Fennell, S., and Farmer, L. (2004). A personalization effect in multimedia learning. Journal of Educational Psychology. 96(2), 389-395.

Robleyer, M., & Doering, A. (2010). Educational Technology Into Teaching (Fifth ed.). Allyn and Bacon, Pearson.

Leave a Comment

EDTECH 541: Considering the Outcomes

Social networking, Cloud-based computing, mobile devices, and Internet access offer myriad opportunities for my students to explore math on a whole new level. Excitement builds as I evaluate web sites, develop the LMS, and plan the online activities for my hybrid Algebra class.

Unexpectedly, I hit a policy barricade, beyond that a Family Rights and Privacy Act and Childs Internet Protection Act (FERPA/CIPA funding compliance barrier, and then headlong into firewalls and filter walls. Anticipation turns into frustration. How I will cross these obstacles becomes part of my planning and preparation.

Knowing I will have to have administrative and Board approval, I consider what solutions I will offer to provide relevant standards-based learning opportunities for student success. I have learned from Robleyer and Doering (2010) that I can use an evaluation tool to predetermine how to navigate the Internet and safely bypass common problems.

I work in reverse order, determining what content is relevant to my course. The Cisco ASA firewall, ESET Anti-virus,  and WebSense internet filter work in tandem to protect our network and our users from the obvious risks of offensive subject matter, malware threats, privacy and financial compromise, or illegal activities, but sometimes they also prevent access to desirable or allowable sites. In response, I create a WebPortal which features the sites I have planned to use in my instruction. To avoid syntax errors, I carefully check the URLs one at a time to ensure they are functional. Using the URLs featured in the portal, I submit a whitelist to the filter.

One-third of my students have an IEP, one-third test within “proficient” levels, and the remaining third are “advanced.”  Meeting the diverse needs of this student mix is going to be challenging. Eric Lawson’s article in the March 28, 2011 Technology & Learning prompted a grant to purchase iPads for a pilot program. The grant was funded. Eager to implement the recently purchased devices, I now have to consider what I must do to add the 3G access to our network. I call our consultants and they walk me through a process that allows our filter to work remotely so students can take the devices home, but remain accountable with publicly funded devices. I work with our administration to develop a new responsible use agreement for staff and students, confident that students will “love to use these handheld devices to learn about core curriculum standards within the classroom”(2011).

I’m getting closer to my objectives, but my most important task lies ahead of me. I must address the human element of this course. Even though my students immerse themselves in social media at home, their ability to use digital tools as a classroom resource is limited. Responding to the findings of a Cengage Learning/Eduventures survey (2010) entitled “Instructors and Students: Technology Use, Engagement and Learning Outcomes, William Reiders, executive vice president for Global New Media (Cengage Learning) states that, “Clearly, students are asking for better guidance, support, and training in using digital tools in the classroom and we, as an industry, need to pay attention and effectively respond to those needs in order to improve engagement and learning outcomes.”

In my opinion, my biggest responsibility is to provide training, model appropriate use, and enforce rules of netiquette, safe browsing, and responsible use of technology so that together we can soar into the 21st Century as learners and consumers in the digital age.

References

Brown, L. (2010, April 7). Debunking the Digital Native Myth: Higher Education Students Ask for More Support in Using Classroom Technology. Retrieved July 25, 2011, from CENGAGE Learning: http://www.cengage.com/trends/pdf/Survey Release and Results.pdf

Lawson, E. (2011). iPads, iPod Touches, and iPhones as Assistive Technology in Education. Technology and Learning .

Robleyer, M., & Aaron, D. (2010). Educational Technology Into Teaching (Fifth ed.). Allyn and Bacon, Pearson.

 

Leave a Comment

EDTECH 541: Microsoft Windows Vista Adaptive Devices

I hear my keys chatter as I type endless characters on the white field of the screen. “Tap, tap, clickity, snap.”  As I mentally prepare for the activity I am about to embark on, I am suddenly aware of the ease at which the words flow beneath my competent fingers, my mind, miles ahead, pausing as though to allow those fingers time to catch up. I read with perfect clarity a screen with small print due to its high resolution. I am blessed.

What would I do if my fingers were stilled in some tragic accident?  How would I form words if the river of thought was dammed by a stroke?  Would my thoughts come with such clarity if I could no longer read what I was writing, reviewing, editing?

I begin looking into alternatives that Microsoft provides on Windows Vista machines. The Portal is the Ease of Access Center located on the Control Panel.  When selected, a mechanical female voice greets me, somewhat reminding me of an android from Star Wars. She begins reading the options  “Start mag-ni-fy-er. Start nar-ra-tion….The sound drones on, ending abruptly with the de-selection of a checkbox.  I feel slightly guilty in the ensuing silence, knowing that my blind grandfather would have appreciated the independence such a voice allowed.

If one of my students were blind,  a station could be set up to operate without the monitor, saving scarce dollars.  Another tool for those students with vision loss is the magnifier which enlarges the output  on the screen by 2-16 times. The magnifier tracks either by the cursor or with key strokes. Browsing the Internet is made more appealing with the narration function paired with caption reading.  Students can perform individual research online without the dependency on an aide or their peers.

For those students whose vision is clear, but experience diminished fine motor skills an on-screen keyboard replaces the physical keyboard, allowing keystrokes via an alternative input device such as voice control, mouth wand, or some other specialized hardware. A student of mine who suffered a diving accident between school years came back in the fall suffering from quadriplegia. I researched the assistive technology and found many of the standard technologies that come with today’s Windows Vista to be unavailable or very expensive at the time. We saved many dollars borrowing physical devices from a state university lending program.  I would have liked very much for the on-screen keyboard to be available as he had a tracheotomy and was unable to speak, but he could use the keyboard well with a specialized touch device. 

Another standard feature in Windows Vista (and other previous versions) are sticky keys and filter keys. These settings have helped our students with limited motor skills since I began teaching 10 years ago. The sticky keys enable a student to enter shortcut key strokes one at a time rather than the controlling command key(s) (usually control, windows, alt, shift, or some combination of those keys) having to be held down while a hot function key is pressed.  The filter keys ignore repeated keystrokes such as one might get by holding down a particular keyyyyyyyyyyyyy.

For those who are able to speak but are limited in their typing, speech recognition technology has advanced by leaps and bounds over the past decade. Microsoft has been very proactive in serving consumers who need alternate methods of using the computer.

Apart from optional closed captioning, my students who experience hearing loss can depend on visual clues that replace system sounds and alerts.

Microsoft continues to develop new technologies, but in my opinion they lag behind Apple’s aggressive pursuit of assistive technology.  In a perfect world we would have no need for these technologies, but my world isn’t perfect, and our district’s network is PC.  So we move forward as best we can.

Leave a Comment

EDTECH 541: Extraordinary Times for Extraordinary Needs

At any given moment, lives change.

I serve as a volunteer advanced EMT on a rural ambulance. During my eight years of service, I have experienced exhilarating triumph and painful tragedy. With each call I become more acutely aware of both the fragility and the resilience of human life. I have learned that it takes only one act (intentional or unintentional), or one bodily systems failure to change lives. A stroke may leave an individual unable to use his right arm. In most activities, this impairment may be minimal – but in other activities which require the use of both arms, this loss puts our friend at a disadvantage with others – it becomes a disability. If the impairment or disability inhibits the individual from fulfilling a role, it becomes a handicap  (Robleyer & Aaron, 2010).

This change impacts the individual, his loved ones, and his environment. The impact can be temporary or permanent.

A few months back I watched an interview with Roger Ebert, a high-profile movie critic who spent a lifetime providing movie goers details about the latest box office releases without giving away the plot. His account of his experience with jaw cancer was touching and inspirational. His face, surgically shaped into a comical expression of happiness, fit well with his positive outlook on life. His voice had vanished and in its place was a technological wonder—a text-to-voice application that allowed this man his vocal contributions, and he was making every word count.

Anyone who performs a comprehensive search of emerging technologies will find that no matter the disability, technology can facilitate a better living experience than one would have had just a decade ago. Astounding!

For whatever reason, human nature causes most people discomfort around those who experience physical or mental disfigurement.  In all but rare situations their voices go unheard. It’s about time we listen because in the next moment, the lives that change might be ours.

References:

Robleyer, M., & Aaron, D. (2010). Educational Technology Into Teaching (Fifth ed.). Allyn and Bacon, Pearson.

 

Leave a Comment

EDTECH 541: Will the Wall Come Down?

The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA, 1999 (106th Congress (Senate), 1999)) is a federal law enacted by Congress to address concerns about access to offensive content over the Internet on school and library computers. Unfortunatelty, Web 2.0 venues demand something that private and public sectors alike share; walled gardens. The Children’s Internet Protection Act mandates public schools have in place a filter to prevent predators from accessing impressionable children, or from children accessing the wealth of pornography and other harmful content.  According to the Pew Internet and American Life project,  learners are connected while not in school, with more than 80% of participants reporting they sleep with a cellphone by the bed. Today’s typical teen sends approximatelly 1500 text messages monthly. Mobile devices are closing the gap in the digital divide by giving less priviledged members of society access to the Internet. The rising popularity of social networking sites emphasizes that today’s students are social learners (Bull, 2010, pg 28-29).

Rather than pushing against the tide, schools can embrace the benefits of social networking technology in a safe and controlled environment designed specifically for the unique needs of K-12 education. These tools help support diversity and the development of communities through safe user friendly platforms that encourage dialogue and the sharing of perspectives, ideas and events.  Such environments can be found with educational vendors such as Gaggle.net. (2011)

A brief skim or an in-depth review of any day’s current events quickly reminds us of the myriad ways we share our home planet with others who–despite our differences in culture, ethnicity, and demographics–are likely to share foundational values of stewardship, spirituality, democracy, diversity, and language. Niel Postman (1995) identifies those values as “the five inclusive human narratives” (pg 144). 

Great and simple minds struggle to answer the ethical dilemmas which confront us at every angle, giving rise to questions such as those that Walter Parker, Akira Ninomya, and John Cogan (1999) framed in regard to societal equity and fairness; balancing privacy with open access to information; meeting human needs in the face of a fragile environment; coping with issues relating to the growing population, genetic engineering, and poverty; keeping local values while developing shared global values; and making ethics-based decisions on the issues?

In their Learning and Leading with Technolgoy article “Save the World with Web 2.0” Lauren Cifuentes, Zahira Merchant, and Omer Faruk Vural (November, 2010) maintain that human narratives merge well with the ethical questions to form an “activity framework for preparing students for global citizenship (pg 34).” Sample activities include having learners research the importance and impact of an issue prior to promoting their cause on social networks, blogs, wikis, global networking, and other Web 2.0 venues to raise awareness and save the world.(Lauren Cifuentes, 2010). When browsing for content enrichment, teachers find similar activities, but are stifled by policies and procedures that prohibit most Web 2.0 applcations.  When will the wall come down?

 

RESOURCES:

106th Congress (Senate). (1999, January 19). S.97.AS. Retrieved June 28, 2011, from Library of Congress: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c106:S.97.IS:

Bull, G. (2010). The Always-Connected Generation. (K. Conley, Ed.) Learning & Leading with Technology , 38 (3), 28-29.

Lauren Cifuentes, Z. M. (2010). Save the World with Web 2.0. Learning & Leading with Technology , 34-35.

Social Learning. (2011). Retrieved June 28, 2011, from Gaggle.net: https://gaggle.net/home/gaggle-apps/social-learning/#features

Leave a Comment

EDTECH 541: Would You Like a Nectarine?

 I stopped at a roadside fruit stand last summer. The air was heavy and warm and the aroma of nectarines and strawberries embraced me as I walked into the darkened building. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness from behind sunglasses that I forgot to exchange for my “other” glasses, I made out piles and piles of fresh produce. Southern gospel music played at a too-high volume on an old cassette player while green bottle flies landed on first one piece and then another of cut “sample” fruit, gleefully rubbing their tiny forelegs in anticipation of the juicy nectar.   The price was well discounted if I could afford the time and energy to go and pick my own fruit. I had time, and couldn’t resist the unexpected opportunity to traipse out into the orchard in anticipation of biting into a sun-warmed nectarine.

The owner, dressed in long sleeved plaid shirt worn under  faded denim overalls connected on only one side by some sort of “work around” where the original fastener had given way, led me out to a section of maybe a dozen nectarine trees. Peering out from the brim of a sweat-stained ball cap, he began “These here are Red Havens—they’re a bit early, but you’ll find a few that are ripe.”  Turning, he pointed to another section, “Those over there are ripe, but they aren’t as sweet and juicy as these…but they will keep longer.”

Smiling, he handed me the cardboard box that had previously held bottles of Jack Daniels whiskey. Cardboard dividers made compartments perfect for keeping fresh nectarines from bruising.  “Over here’s a ladder if you want to get up higher; I think that tree has quite a few ripe ones on the south side.”  Realizing I wasn’t in a big rush, he warmed up as he pointed here and there to the ripening fruit explaining how I would be able to see crimson freckles and smell the ripeness before I touched the fruit. If it was ripe, it would be sure to detach itself from the tree into my willing hand. I picked as he talked.

The digital future stretches before me with limitless opportunities. Each day I behold another use for technology – another venue for distributing information to myriad learners. Asynchronous versus synchronous, Apple versus PC, Telepresence versus self-direction, apps versus books. Choices flood the digital orchard.  My vision is to be a teacher to those who would learn. My vision is that my course design will lead learners to a set of specific objectives. The owner of the orchard did not lead me to apples, cherries, or peaches. He knew I was seeking nectarines, so he took me to the fruit and allowed me to pick while he provided guidelines, visual references, and learning.

Online learners need objectives – needless energy is spent trying to sift through the maze of information that is available when objectives are unclear. Well developed courses provide direction and clarification as well as satisfying the need to know that we learners are seeking. I have found that standards help me in providing clear objectives and relevant assessments. For my secondary education students I follow the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), 2011)and the International Society for Technical Education (ISTE) National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) (International Society for Technology in Education, 2011).

If my vision becomes reality, my students can anticipate the best there is to be had…would you like a nectarine?

Works Cited

International Society for Technology in Education. (2011). Standards. Retrieved June 13, 2011, from ISTE: http://www.iste.org/standards/nets-for-students.aspx

National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). (2011). Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. Retrieved June 13, 2011, from Core Standards: http://www.corestandards.org/assets/CCSSI_Math%20Standards.pdf

Leave a Comment