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If you have known me for any amount of time you know that music is a huge part of my life. I listen to music in my car, in the shower, in my classroom, and pretty much anywhere I can get a speaker. I have seen many concerts. Many of which have served as reunions with friends that I haven’t seen in a long time.

I consider myself well rounded when it comes to musical taste. If you were to peruse my iTunes, you would surely find something you like no matter if you like rock, jazz, r & b, rap, hip-hop, or bluegrass. For this post, I went through my library and tried to find albums that I really like that are rather obscure. Here they are in no particular order:

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The Infamous Stringdusters: Things That Fly: This album is one that I listen to quite a bit. The Stringdusters are a bluegrass band from Colorado. Things That Fly contains songs that are a mixture of traditional bluegrass tunes and some danceable “newgrass” tunes. It is not twangy. They do an awesome job mixing their 5 piece string band and awesome harmonies. For me the highlight of the album is It’ll Be Alright.

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Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad: Country: Quite a name for a band right? This 5 piece band is an electric reggae band that specializes in bass-heavy dub reggae music. However, for this album they unplugged and recorded an all acoustic album. It mixes reggae with bluegrass to create an awesome sound. While the lyrics are not Beatles quality, they are catchy and singable. The Dub Squad also throw in a cover of the Grateful Dead’s New Speedway Boogie. Get Me Through is the album highlight for me.

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The Milk Carton Kids: Retrospect: Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan have recorded this amazing ballad driven acoustic live album. With two acoustic guitars and two unique voices, this album is perfect for a Sunday drive in the summer sun or a relaxing listen after a long day. Charlie is a song that every parent should listen to.

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A Tribe Called Quest: Peoples Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm: This is a straight up hip-hop album that is infectious in its beats. Musically it contains awesome sections that infuse jazz, rock, funk and hip-hop. The lyrics are clean and Q-Tip’s voice is one of a kind. Luck of Lucien is my personal favorite track.

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Buena Vista Social Club: Buena Vista Social Club: Havana Cuba has had its struggles in the past. The Buena Vista Social Club was one Havana’s most popular meeting spots for musicians in the 1940’s. Inspired by the legendary club, Cuban American artists recorded this album in the late 90’s. The album takes you on musical tour through Cuba’s history. Combining Cuban soul and Latin sounding jazz, this is a great album listen to on a hot summer day with a cold drink in hand.

Totally Spaced Out…

Quite a night in the middle of August

When was the last time you looked up?  Not looked up to see if it is raining.  Not looked up to see the spider crawling across your ceiling.  When was the last time you looked up to see the wonderous, vastness of space?  Sure, everyday we see the clouds passing and think nothing of it.  Those clouds range from less than a mile to about six miles above our heads.  On a clear night, we can watch shooting stars.  They aren’t actually stars, they are specs of dust burning up in our mesosphere.  They’re only 30 miles above our heads.  The moon provides light from its purch in the night sky.  It may seem like a long way but it is only about 250,000 miles from Earth.  Our giver of light, the sun, is 93,000,000 miles away.  Thats extremely close in space distance.  In fact, light travels at 186,000 miles per second.  If the sun went out as you read these words, it would take 8 minutes for the last bit of light to reach Earth.

This summer, on our family vacation, Jess, Dusty, Jocelyn, and I laid out under a crystal clear sky for a few hours.  The night was chilly but the show that the heavens put on was spectacular!  I saw meteorites like I have NEVER seen before.  Huge streaks of light burning across the night sky.  Some where so bright that they left a trail in the sky for seconds after they burnt up.  All of this took place on a backdrop of the universe.  The Milky Way was clearly visible that night.  As I laid there watching this celestial show, I began to think about how large we as people are compared to the universe.  My mind began to wander as I tried to conceptualize where we stand in relation to the vastness of space.  It is mind boggling!

My cousin, Tyler, posted this computer animation on Facebook shortly after vacation.  I thought it was fitting to the show that I had just witnessed.

Think about this.  There are about 6,973,738,433 people on the Earth.  On average, adult’s shoulder widths are between 14″ to 15″ in width.   The Earth has a diameter of about  7,926.41 mi.  Seems pretty large right?  The suns’ diameter is 865,000 miles.  The sun is the largest body in our solar system.  It is a star.  However it is only an average sized star.  In fact, it is on the smaller end of average.  The largest star in our galaxy (the Milky Way) is Antares.  It has a diameter of 603,680,000 miles.  That is about 800 times larger than the sun!

Sure the objects in our galaxy are large but it is how far apart they are that completely boggles my mind.  From one end to the other, the Milky Way is 100,000 to 120,000 light years across.  Remember, light travels at 186,000 miles per second! A light year is (obviously) how far light travels in a year.  There are about 30 galaxies that lie within a “local group” that includes the Milky Way.  This local group lies within 30 million light years of the Milky Way.  Oh, by the way, remember the sun is a star.  Well, there are 200 to 400 million stars in the Milky Way alone.  The light we see from stars has been traveling for millions to billions of years until it gleams in our eyes.  When you look at the stars, you are looking back in time.  You are looking at stars that may have exploded eons ago.  They might not even be there anymore!

The universe itself is about 93 billion light-years across.  It is also believed to have around 300 sextillion stars in it.  Each being millions to billions of light years apart.  To my puny human brain it is incomprehensible.

Next time there is a clear night, take a few minutes (or hours…its worth it) to look up and wonder.  Become a kid again.  Its free…

What Penn State Means to Me

As you know, Penn State is going through the most difficult time in its storied, honored, history.  The acts of a few, who were more powerful and deceitful than anyone could imagine, have tarnished the image of an extremely proud and notorious institution.  In the last few months, the media has made alumni, like me, feel like we should be ashamed to call ourselves Penn State alum or “Penn State Proud.”  This is media hype at its finest and I refuse to let it happen to me.

The Penn State that I know, the Penn State that shaped me, had little to nothing to do with the football program.  In fact, football was the least of my concerns when I was there.  From 1995-1999, I was a student in University Park.  I was there to learn about my career as a teacher and to learn even more about myself as a person.

I had wanted to go to Penn State Main Campus since I was a middle schooler.  Sure, my first memories and interests in the school were sparked by watching football games with my dad on Saturday afternoons.  We went to a few and I was awed by Beaver Stadium.  However, I really knew that Penn State was for me when I had the chance to stay on campus for a few days in the spring for 5 straight years when I was in middle school and high school.  I participated in the Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science and the prize for placing first in the regional competition was spending a Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in May , in the dorms of Penn State Main Campus and presenting your project at the state competition.  As a middle school student, away from home, on a college campus, I thought I would be intimidated or nervous.  In fact, the opposite was true.  I fell in love with the campus.  I couldn’t get enough Frisbee near the old lot 80.  I loved walking through the book store and imagining myself with my backpack on going to class.  The Creamery was located just up the street from East Halls.  We had access to it all.  When my three days were up, I didn’t want to leave.  I knew it was the place for me.

Once I decided that Penn State was for me, I jumped at the chance to go there.  I sent out my application the summer before my senior year.  I clearly remember the November day that I received my acceptance letter to Main Campus.  I was thrilled!  My buddy Craig and my girlfriend at the time were accepted too.  It was perfect.  A few of my other friends were accepted to branch campuses but we all knew that they could make their way to main campus.  This had nothing to do with football.

My freshman year was filled with experiences that I will never forget.  I met friends that I still have to this day.  They were people from all over the state and the country.  We laughed a whole lot.  We did things that were so stupid, that looking back, we were lucky we ended up getting to our sophomore year.

That first year was a time for me to take a huge campus with 40,000 student and make it small. I had met such awesome people, and done so many awesome things, that it felt like Penn State was a small knit community.  Sure, we went to a few football games, but we were making memories with each other and the campus.  Penn State gave me the opportunity to come out of my shell and reach out to new people.  Through pledging two fraternities (and not following through on either) I met some incredible people who still make me laugh all the time.  The boys at Sig Tau will always make me laugh when I think of the stuff we used to do and the times we still have when we get together.  Thanks to them for still letting an old ex-pledge hang around!

I will never forget the CATA Line busses late at night, roller blading to classes, the chiming of the Old Main Bell, the old location of The Creamery, Frisbee on the HUB Lawn, the Blue and White golf courses, working at The Kinder Station with some really kick-ass people, the things that I don’t remember, jumping off of Sig Tau’s roof (at the original house) after a huge snowstorm, Zeno’s, The Brewery, Penn Tower, East Halls, Arts Fest, the Riot, summers at PSU, the $108 keg, laying in a field watching the stars, and the countless other things that we did.  Football just didn’t do it for me.  There were too many other things to do.

The social aspects of Penn State really helped me branch out and become who I am as a person.  However the academic side of Penn State has given me everything that has molded my career as a sixth grade science teacher.  In fact, the academic side is the reason why I met my wife and have the family that I do.

I started out as a dual major in physics and biology.  After my second try at double variable calculus, I decided that  it was time to change tracks.  I entered the field of elementary education.  Penn State offered a student teaching opportunity in Pierre, South Dakota, at a government funded boarding school for Native American students.   I jumped at the opportunity.   After being interviewed and accepted, I was on my way to South Dakota.  While there, I was able to take a bus to the Eagle Butte Indian Reservation to pick up some of our students.  It was an eye-opening experience to say the least.  I saw poverty like I had never even imagined.  However, these students jumped on the bus with a smile on their faces and were ready to learn.  I was exposed to a culture that is so unique.  I felt honored that they were allowing me to teach their children.  Football had nothing to do with it.

Not only did I meet and interact with Native American students, I met and fell in love with my wife while I was there.  She went to Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania.  They had the same program as Penn State.

I know that my story and my experiences at Penn State are not unique.  University Park is filled with good, honest people, teachers, and professors who have given their entire life to bettering other’s lives.  To them, I say thank you and keep it up.  The actions of a few, even though they were powerful and deceitful DO NOT represent what Penn State IS.   Notice I did not say “what Penn State was.”  Penn State is still an excellent university filled with people who have passion, integrity, and heart.  Penn State is opportunity.  Penn State is what you make it.  It is not the evil that the media has made it out to be.  The actions of a few are horrid and will never be forgotten.  However,  even though the media doesn’t see it this way,  Penn State is much more than football.  It is a tile mosaic of hundreds of thousands of pieces.  All of them unique and football is but one of those tiles.  Don’t let the media decide what our portrait should be.  We are the artists…We Are Penn State!

My Family

The Fabulous 4

So, I woke up this morning and had a thought.  “I have that blog that I used for a class a few years ago.  I am on summer break from teaching.  I no longer have a large audience of sponges to spew my thoughts to…”  I figured I might as well dust off the old educational blog and use it record my musings… I told Jess this morning that I was thinking about restarting my blog and she just laughed.  Now that I have her full support, here we go.

This blog was originally written to share my thoughts on various aspects of education.  Feel free to go back and read some of the earlier posts.  I am sure you can find something to disagree with me about.  However, today’s entry is going to be about what being a dad has meant to me and what I have learned and what I still need to conquer.  Here are my top 10 (in no particular order):

1.  I love my wife deeply.  However, I never knew how much I could love someone until my daughter, Sophia, was born in May of 2008.  Along with Jess, Sophia and my son Luke are THE most important things in my life.  I would do anything for any of them; especially my children.

2.  My Parents were huge influences in my life.  I always knew that my parents were wonderful in the way that they raised my brother and me.  I truly thank them for the morals and values that I have today.  With two wonderful role models, I can pass what they taught me about life onto my children.  The best part is…both of my kids are nuts over their grandparents!

3.  Being a dad is not easy.  With one kid, both parents have to sacrifice some things they enjoyed in the past.  However, with two, the ballgame changed completely.  Most notably, I have given up leisure activities that I had enjoyed so frequently in the past.  I no longer golf as much as I used too.  I haven’t been out in my kayak in over a year.  I am not complaining.  With the infrequency of these things, I have gained so much more time with my kids.

4.  I could never be a mom.  Jess is an incredible woman.  She manages to raise our kids during the school day by herself.  When I walk in the door, she leaves for work three days a week from 3-6PM.  How she can keep her sanity from one strenuous job to the next is amazing.  The kids are constantly demanding of her and she never complains about it.  When I am at school, I have coworkers to talk to and destress and vent.  She works as a secretary at a church.  When she is there in the evening she is there by herself.   She can’t vent.  It amazes me.

5.  Boys and girls are totally different.  When Sophia was a toddler, she was quiet and enjoyed playing by herself.  She would eat at meal times and have a snack here and there throughout the day.  Luke, on the other hand, is a beast.  That boy eats CONSTANTLY.  He devours bananas like I’ve never seen.  When he doesn’t want something, he will throw it on the floor.  He can laugh and cry at the same time.  He loves his sister and she loves him.  He is already into trucks, playing ball, and dancing while she loves princesses, dresses, and being beautiful.  I love it!

6.  Moms and dads need to get out without kids every once in a while.  Last week, Jess, the kids, and I were at the beach with her family.  We were lucky enough to have Jess’ parents there to watch the kids while we went to Atlantic City to see Phish (I am sure there will be a future post about them).  We met up with Craig Day, Jeff Cunningham, Jimmy and Laura Kalp, and Tom and Kara Patty.  Craig and Jimmy are my great friends from high school.  Jeff was our roommate in college and Tom and Kara are close friends of the Kalps (and we love them too).  This was the first time we have all been together since 2004.  It was truly a great experience.  It was Father’s Day.  We all missed our kids but it was great sharing stories about how wonderful they all are.  Oh yeah, the band killed it that night and we all had three hours to dance our asses off and relax!

7.  It is hard to imagine what my life was like before I became a dad.  Frequently, Jess and I ask each other what we did before kids.  Both of us agree that it is very difficult to remember.  I must have been a knucklehead…

8.  No matter how bad of a day I had at work, nothing can take away the feeling of opening the door when I get home and having my two kids run to me for a hug!  All the stress that I had that day disappears.  Nothing matters at that point except that we are all home and together.

9.  Patience is something that I need to work on.   I tend to get short with Sophia every once in a while.  She acts so mature and grown up, that I sometimes forget she is only 4.  She is just a little kid.

10.  Every kid needs a dog.  We had to put Jake the Dog down last December.  It was one of the hardest decisions I have had to make.  All of us were having a tough time dealing with his loss.  We still talk about him as a member of the family.  Luke has fallen in love with dogs.  Every time he sees one, we have to go pet it.  Sophie loves them too.  They both light up around them.  We will have one sometime in the near future.  I grew up with dogs and so did Jess.  Our kids will too.

There you have it…feel free to share your lessons learned!

 

“Can you hand me a pencil?” Jess says as she takes a sip of her morning coffee.

“Sure,” laughs Mr. Scheuch, “but you are twenty miles away from me right now and eventhough it is the year 2020, I can’t teleport you one.”

“Oh.  Sorry Mr. Scheuch.  I was talking to my mother.  She is cooking me breakfast.  It is really great that you can take some time out of your busy schedule to meet with me and Robert and give us some feedback on our online presentation about nanotechnology.”

As Jess finishes this sentence, her laptop beeps and new updates from Robert appear on her screen.  She and Robert have been putting together a multimedia presentation to be presented to their science class in three days.  Mr.  Scheuch is their science teacher and he is having a live chat with both of them via Skype.  In the past 10 years Skype and other video conferencing software has replaced the need for teachers to teach from a classroom.  In fact on this Tuesday morning, Mr. Scheuch is meeting with all of his students who are presenting.  They have appointments in 15 minute increments.

Science class, and all classes for that matter, have taken on a dramatic new look.  No longer do the students come in to school every day and sit through 5-8 periods a day.  Students are required to come to school one day a week and meet with all of their teachers.  They ask questions, receive whole group instruction and details about their upcoming work for that week.  Just because the students only come to class one day a week, does not mean that they do not complete school work the rest of the week.  Through devices like computers, iPhones, Smartphones, and iPads, students are constantly connected to their teacher and to each other.  In fact, the school voucher program has passed in all 50 states and now students from many different neighborhoods are all attending the same school.  Jess is from a rural neighborhood and Robert is from an urban one.

“Mr. Scheuch, Someone left an inappropriate comment on our class Facebook page,” says Jess as Mr. Scheuch is looking through their presentation.

“Did you follow the steps outlined in our acceptable use policy for dealing with inappropriate content on the internet?” asks Mr. Scheuch.

Knowing that every student in the district has had two internet safety classes, one in first grade and one in seventh grade,  he is confident that his students know how to deal with unexpected roadblocks on the net.  In fact, for the first time ever, most districts in the United States have written curriculum to inform students, teachers, and parents about internet safety.  Parents are required to attend at least one workshop per year that outlines current dangers on the internet and how to deal with them.  Also, they learn about new web 2.0 and social networking sites so they can have conversations with their children about how to effectively use them in their education.  Teachers are trained three times a year on technology.  It has become mandatory that they use technology to deliver their content.  Since cyber school has become the preferred method for 90% of the students, this training is extremely important.

Again because of vouchers, the remaining 10%of students that are not learning online, attend traditional school.  In fact, they are learning the same content in traditional school as the others are learning online.  This learning is done through classes that meet 5 days a week with a teacher present in the classroom.  The teacher serves as a facilitator and guides their learning through interactive activities that are internet and computer based.  These teachers are also trained three times a year on technology.

School districts are saving tremendous amounts of money without having additional costs for transportation, textbooks, paper, and other traditional school supplies.  Since students are learning from their home, they do not need rides to school.  Also, all of their class materials and texts are available online.  The best part is, teachers are not making photo copies anymore.  For his student’s science presentations, Mr. Scheuch has used online document apps to create and distribute rubrics, requirements, and notes to all of his students.  With the money being saved on these items, districts are now able to afford paying for meaningful professional developement.  Teachers are not using new technology because they have to, they are using it because they want to.

Mr. Scheuch has several students in his class that are IEP students and need accommodations.  With the use of online apps and other web 2.0 tools, all of his lessons and materials are easily differentiated.  By a few simple mouse clicks, teachers are creating, editing and distributing material through different channels to different people.

Through web-based programs, students can choose to create products that fit their learning styles.  They make connections and build their networks through collaboration and online discussion.  This is at the heart of Connectivism.

“I can’t seem to find enough information on this importance of nanotechnology in the medical field,” Robert says.

“Have you checked the RSS feeds and the Del.icio.us links on our class Pageflake site? asks Mr. Scheuch.  “If you have and you still can’t find anything, why don’t you see if you can contact one of our community scientists and set up a Skype conversation with them.”

The line between community and school has been blurred.  Community members are also part of students learning network.  People volunteer to lead class discussions and to work with students on school related topics.  The walls of the classroom have been broken down.  Information is not only coming into the “classroom,” it is being dispersed and spread out of the “classroom.”  Through cooperation between Federal, state, and local government, people are starting to see the importance of education and the role that EVERYONE plays in it.  Teachers are no longer considered lazy, tax-money-sucking state employees who are draining taxpayer wallets with their pension plans and their summers off.  They are viewed as dedicated, hard-working individuals who put the needs of their students on the front lines.

“Well, Mr. Scheuch, thanks so much for helping us.  We can’t wait to present to the entire class via video conferencing next week,” says Jess as her and Robert finish up making changes to their presentations.

Beep…beep…beep…

“I am so glad to hear that,” says Mr. Scheuch.  “I am looking forward to seeing the finished product from everyone in class.” Beep…beep…beep… “Do you guys hear that beeping.” Beep…beep…beep… “There it is again.”

Suddenly Mr. Scheuch realizes that he is not sitting in front of his computer monitor talking to Jess and Robert.  He is standing in a dark, warm room that smells like toner and hot plastic.  He looks down and sees the light labeled “Paper Jam  in Tray 3″ flashing on the photocopy machine.  Time to clear the jam and get back to teaching in 2011.  The year 2020 holds many changes for education but they only enhance student learning and create learning environments and motivation for life-long learning in all students.

Copyright Google TM 2011

I have many students in my sixth grade class that enjoy working together on projects.  However, a problem arises when the bell rings and the students have to save their work.  The next day, they come back but the person whose account they used to log onto the computer is absent.  What to do, what to do?    This is where the online Google Docs app comes in handy.  Students can all collaborate online, in real time, from any machine with internet access.   Let’s say, three students start a wonderful presentation at school using PowerPoint.  They are very skilled in their use of the software.  They have multimedia, and it looks really great.  However, only one person can work on it at a time.  If all three students sign up for a free Google account, they can all collaborate on the project from home.   The best part is, all of their work that they did in PowerPoint is not lost.  Google Docs allows you to import existing presentations into the online software.  They can still create their beautiful presentation without worrying about one person being absent.  Even if every student in the group is absent on the day that the presentation is due, they can share the presentation with the teacher through Google Docs and it can be submitted electronically.  That is one way to begin a paperless classroom.  The teacher can then grade it and make comment right in the presentation with out using any paper.

One of the students in the group is very into the web and web 2.0.  She has a Pageflakes page complete with RSS feeds, YouTube videos and a flake for her Facebook account.  With Google docs, she can get an embed code for their presentation, and use the Anything flake to embed their project onto her Pageflakes page.  Now their project from science class has gone global.

Google Docs also eliminates the need to carry around flash drives and other portable media storage devices.  Since everything is saved every 5 seconds in Google.  The students can work on a presentation at home, and then continue it at school by signing into their Google account.  As teachers, that makes our life much easier.  It takes many excuses for why things are not submitted out of the equation.  What a cool idea.

Wow.  Columbia University has paperless classes!  Students don’t have to “hand” anything in as a hardcopy.  In fact, the professor refuses to take it!  Not only are they saving the environment, the students are submitting work in an online environement that is rich in not only text, but also graphics, audio, and video.  How cool would it be to have a class where the students don’t submit work on paper?  As a teacher, I would feel much more comfortable grading my student’s work.  I always say that the worst part of teahing is grading papers.  Sitting at your desk and staring at a massive pile of paper just doesn’t motivate me to get it done.  However, if I have to assess projects, essays or other products that contain multimedia images, I would love to complete my grading.  Also, the linked article above mentions that Professor Marc Myer said, “Studies have shown that the most effective learning takes place when a student develops an emotional attachment to the work.”  If my students can create media rich work and taylor it to fit their personallity and style, they are becoming emotionally attached to their work.  That is awesome. 

As with any assessment or graded project, there would have to be an extensive lesson on the process to create, submit, and review graded material.  Also, students would have to be given rubrics for expectations of graded work.  I believe that they would be more apt to follow the rubrics if they could submit all work online.  With web 2.0 tools lik Google Docs, students can share work, ideas, projects, presentations, and data.  They can offer real-time feedback to each other.  Each time they share and discuss their work, they are creating connections in their network.  I feel like it would be an extremely easy way to build a learning network online.    Not only can they share with each other, they can share with you as the teacher.  I have had students submit work to me electronically before it was due so that I could comment on it and give them feedback.  It is an extremely powerful tool.  Also, with a paperless learning environment, they can work on their own time.   I can only hope that we can start moving toward paperles classrooms.  Seeing the amount of paper that is wasted everyday makes the trees in our school yard shiver.

Unknown. (Date unknown). "Shift Together." http://www.ci-shift.com. Retrieved February 22, 2011

Education is changing.  Quickly and without end.  We need to make a shift.  If we cannot change gears and climb that hill, we will continue to fall further and further behind in education.  Will Richardson outlines 10 “Big Shifts” in Education in his book, Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms.  These give us insight into ways that we can prepare ourselves and our students to succeed in this ever-changing landscape.  One that really hit me is the fact that students, teachers, parents, and adminstrators need to realize that there are “many, many teachers” that allow students to engage in 24/7 learning.  This idea is at the heart of social networking and building collaborative environments online.  As students become “connected” to others near them and around the world, there education has the potential to take off.  The teacher no longer is the one who stands in front of the classroom.  The teacher takes on the form of an avatar on the computer screen, the person on the other end of a Skype conversation, the hundreds of “friends” that have been made through Facebook and MySpace.  Education is no longer contained within four walls.  It is uncontained.  Students can always access information and people in their network.  Until districts start to realize the potential of this big shift (i.e. taking down firewalls and blocked websites that are educationally valuable) students are mssing out in school.  We cannot expect them to learn like this on their own.  Our job is to teach effective practice using these tools.  We cannot if the means are not there.

Since I started reading and discussing the benefits of web 2.0, my views have not changed very much.  However, they have become more concrete.  I am a huge proponent for the internet and the realm of possibilities it provides.  I am now starting to have more “ammunition” to approach my higher-ups with to begin the conversation of opening up the web a bit more.

Skype for Educational Purposes?

Skype has been around for a hand full of years now.  I have been using it for personal contacts for three years.  During the winter months, my parents move down to sunny, warm, North Carolina.  They miss their granddaughter tremendously.  Every Sunday, we gather around the computer monitor and have an hour long conversation.  It amazes me that we can see my parents and they can see us in real-time from hundreds of miles away.  The best part is that this service is free.

Until the other night, I never really thought about Skype as a tool for my teaching career.  On Thursday, I had a 40 minute conversation with Robert from my online grad class.  We had never met.  We had only posted information and comments on each others blogs.  We also worked on a wiki together.  It was great collaborating with him online to complete those activities, but it was even better seeing him in person…almost.  Through Skype we were able to have a discussion and share stories about our careers and how we use technology.  Using technology to talk about technology.  That was pretty cool.

Robert had a question about how to do something in our wiki.  Instead of me trying to explain to him the process, the new version of Skype has a screen sharing feature.  I shared my desktop with him and he was able to watch me do what he wanted to know.  How cool is that?  I figured Skype would be a great way to do off-site training for fellow teachers in my building.  I could show them how to use software or complete a task on the computer.  Also, I would like to use Skype to contact and talk to professionals in the science field.  My kids can Skype with them and get a first hand look at a real scientist that works in the fields that we are studying.  What a great authentic presentation for students.

How do you use Skype in your classroom?  What are some ideas of things you could use it for?

Connectivism in the Classroom

Unknown. (Date unknown). "Future." From Connectivism Already Happened: Practitioners – Let’s Explain It… Now – While We Still Have A Job…Retrieved February 17, 2011

Another “ism” in education..are you serious?  Is connectivism a new learning theory or not?  I recently read a wiki in support of this new learning theory.  The Wiki titled, The Practicality of Connectivism gave many reasons why connevtivism should be considered a new learning theory as opposed to supporting other learning theories.  While I agree that connectivism is a new way of learning, I have questions about the debate.  Does it really matter if this is a new learning theory or not?  Why do we need to spend time arguing whether this should be considered a “theory?”  Let’s say the debate ends and it is considered a new theory.  Is it going to be packaged and sold to school districts like so many other learning theories have?  Is someone going to make millions on its framework?  If students are learning in this “theory” then lets just accept it as an acceptable teaching practice and use it.  Part of teaching is knowing your students.  If your students can use the connectivism way to learn, then it should be used.  If not, adopt another learning theory or supplement connectivism with it.  Our students are constantly changing.  Technology is changing.  If we can’t keep up as educators, we will fall behind and be replaced by someone who can keep up.  Theory is only as good as its application.  If it works, use it.  Does it really matter if it is accepted as a theory or not?  Sometimes I think that the intelligent people who research and create these “theories” forget what its like to be in the classroom.  Most likely, they have never been in a classroom before….

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