An (aspiring) Educator’s Blog

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Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Podcaster workshop: What makes a good podcast? (part 1)

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Last week, I decided to start podcasting. Being the tech geek I am, I Googled the web for howtos, and quickly found the best freeware and (reasonably-priced) digital recorder. Now, my Amazon.com box is cracked open, and I’m asking myself hard questions about podcasting. What makes a good podcast? It seems like howtos for podcasting focus on what should come second -the tools of the trade, rather than what should come first – content.  If I’m going to create a podcast for listeners, or use podcasts in my classroom next year (both to deliver content and for student projects), good content has to be at the heart of my planning and execution.

Dan Meyer says it best:

Consider these three mediums, in increasing order of technical difficulty: blogging, podcasting, and vodcasting.

  • Successful blogging requires original thought, sturdy writing, and bloodthirsty editing.
  • Successful podcasting requires original thought, sturdy writing, bloodthirsty editing, and a command of the aural experience.
  • Successful vodcasting requires original thought, sturdy writing, bloodthirsty editing, a command of the aural experience, and a command of the visual experience.

In order to achieve the same communicative result, not only does the number of necessary skills increase across all three mediums but the editing process for each grows harder and vastly more technical, the difference between hitting the delete key in one and wielding Final Cut Express’ digital blade in the other.

What does it mean to have “a command of the aural experience”? Should I ship my digital recorder back to Amazon because my content is best conveyed via blog? I’m a big fan of writing workshop in my classroom. Students work through the phases of the writing process: immersion, collecting ideas, drafting, revision, editing, publishing, and celebration. I’ve decided to put myself through a podcasting workshop.

Now, I’m in my immersion process. In the classroom, I read texts by genre, author, or craft strategy. Then, I chart students’ observations about the texts, and we make an attribute chart. Over the past few days, I’ve listened to a variety of podcasts. I’m in the process of creating an attribute chart.

picture-4

When I started making the chart, I realized it needs a different layout in its final version to separate different podcast formats (two hosts w/no interviews, roundtable/multiple people, narrator and story/interview, etc). This chart is still a good way to get started. When I have listed all attributes, I’ll sort podcasts into type. To start an attribute chart, pick your favorite podcasts (or ones you think are noteworthy), and figure out which features are shared between the podcasts. The final steps are to figure out which common attributes I should include in my podcast and the “holes in the market” – attributes my podcast will have that others do not have.

Stay tuned for my completed and sorted attribute chart in part two of my podcaster workshop series. What are attributes you’ve noticed in your favorite podcasts? Are there holes in the market – attributes you think should be in some podcasts but are missing? Can you reccomend podcasts I should listen to and add to my attribute list?

Podcasts listened to: Science Friday Podcast (NPR), This American Life (NPR), Stuff You Should Know (Howstuffworks.com), various news podcasts (The Economist, BBC, CNN, etc), Rachel Maddow Green 960, SMARTboard Lessons PodcastWicked Decent Learning Podcast, Project Xiphos, Bit by Bit, and EdTech Weekly.

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Written by TeacherC

3 April 2009 at 6:33 pm

Response: Five Things Schools Must Do to Avoid Extinction

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Over at Gravity and Levity, Dave wrote a post entitled Five Things Schools Must Do to Avoid Extinction. Dave says schools need to embrace cell phones and iPods, stop blocking internet use, have teachers who police their own ranks, have school-based merit pay, and make sure teachers have experience in the arts.

Upon reading his list, I came up with two versions of my own. The first:

Five Things Schools Must Do to Avoid Extinction:

1. Recharge community spirit. There are many negative stereotypes (and harsh realities) about parental involvement in struggling schools. New research suggests parents of children who attend schools in low-income communities want more opportunities to engage with the school. Administrators and teachers must innovate how we reach out to parents of different economic realities, languages, and cultures. Schools should be part of the foundation of community renewal.

2. Invest in intellectual and professional communities of teachers. Schools, teacher preparation programs, unions, and other stakeholders must work together to create a system where mentor-apprentice relationships thrive, collaboration (between teachers in and across schools) is the norm, and all teachers have access to research-based and field tested pedagogical strategies.

3. Allow kids to play and think for themselves. Recent studies link recess and free choice time to academic and social success. As I’ve said in earlier posts, “I’m a constructivist: I think that children construct their own knowledge when they encounter experiences that intrigue and challenge them”. Children form and challenge schema through play.

4. Re-interpret the one room schoolhouse. Americans seem most comfortable in clear hierarchies – especially the ones we have created in schools. Grades are an example – we group children by age and establish rigid definitions for what it means to be at or below grade level. We track students by academic and language “ability” and social behavior. I understand why administrators and teachers prefer tracking: it seems like the most efficient way to deliver content at the level of students. I see classrooms like families. In a household, family members learn from each other even though they are different ages and have different goals/needs. Older siblings learn from younger siblings, parents learn from children, etc. Families are communities of learners just like schools should be. Instead of thinking about classrooms in terms of the supposed age or level of the students, we should think about them as diverse learning communities, where the different abilities of students help them learn from each other.

5. Acknowledge differences in culture without negative comparison to the culture of power. Instead of embracing the diversity we see in our learning communities, we often wage campaigns to rid children of differences. Although students must learn English in school to succeed in our society, we should praise the their status as students who navigate more than one culture and language successfully. Home cultures influence how students interpret and learn from the world we create at school. We must try to understand where are students come from with an attitude of respect.

Now, a more satirical list:

Five Things (“Underperforming”) Schools Must Do to Avoid Extinction:

1. “Smoke ’em out”. Cycle through new leaders and teachers each year. As George W would say, we have to smoke underachieving teachers and administrators out of their caves.

2. Scripting: eliminate the “teach” from teaching and replace it with a script. Community building, figuring out student needs, teaching students at their social and developmental pace is too hard. Reading a script, snapping fingers, and waiting for answers in game-show style is better.

3. Woo foundations and nonprofit organizations. There is a positive correlation between money available for grants and sound pedagogical decision-making, right?

4. Keep kids away from their communities and alienate parents. There is a positive correlation between time spent keeping children out of their community and test scores, right?

5. Support programs that bring new, unexperienced, teachers to the most needy students. We want teachers who are young and creative enough to innovate the education system (but whose lack of access to, and practice using, research-based educational strategies leaves them little recourse but to use uber-traditional practices).

Einstein on Twitter

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Was Einstein right?

“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” – Albert Einstein

“That Works….” – An EducatorBlog Comic

Comic

by educatorblog | Create your own Cartoon at www.toondoo.com

Written by TeacherC

7 March 2009 at 9:57 pm

Sometimes teachers use computers like badly written worksheets

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I’m intrigued by a debate sparked by this post on Dangerously Irrelevant:

Dangerous Debate

I agree with the principal who asks for advice – technology should not be treated as an “add on” to our curriculum. Teachers should weave technology throughout the curriculum and their practices – not only as a way to increase learning, but for networking, tracking professional development, and making life easier in the classroom (it’s possible!).

Schools that give equitable access to 21st century learning experiences value community building (home-school, teacher-student, student-student, neighborhood-school, etc), use informed and child-centered pedagogy, and help teachers connect to a wider professional community. Just having technology in a building does not ensure children learn how to use technology appropriately. Currently, our classrooms are filled with literacy, math, science, and social studies artifacts (textbooks, worksheets, libraries, posters, curriculum guides, art supplies, etc). The mere presence of these artifacts has not ensured equitable access to appropriate learning experiences.

Many professionals misuse technology (there are tons of websites about bad PowerPoint presentations). Teachers are prone to the same error. Sometimes teachers use computers like badly written worksheets. Instead of using technology to provide students with rigorous challenges, many teachers provide cookie cutter, linear experiences, where the emphasis is on product rather than process. In my professional development and classroom management plan, I say:

“students need experiences that build upon understandings they already have while challenging them to form new understandings. Vygotski used the term “Zone of Proximal Development”. Learning requires a delicate mix of challenge, conflict, safety, and familiarity. There is not a single linear progression that fits the learning trajectories of all students.”

I guess the question I would have asked, if I were the principal, is “How do you align technology use with what you believe are the best practices in education and the needs of your intellectual community? How can I create a technology plan that provides the equipment and professional development for teachers to use these technologies appropriately?”

How would you answer these questions?

Not your grandmother’s time capsule.

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I’m always looking for new ways to show my students how we have grown over time intellectually and socially (community building). Capzules (via angelamaiers on twitter) seems like an innovative new way to do that. Capzules says you can “combine your videos, photos, blogs, and mp3s into rich, multimedia story lines”.

I’m brainstorming uses for my 5th grade class:

– Making our class time capsule during our last morning meeting of the week. Keeping track of our class goals, celebrations, favorite lessons, etc.

– Digital storytelling in language arts, social studies, and science: having students tell stories using digital media.

– Portfolios: uploading student work into a digital portfolio they can keep forever.

– Better teaching: keeping a portfolio of my lessons and contributions of the class. This is a cool way to track professional growth.

capzules

You don’t have to bury this time capsule in the playground.

Discover new tweets with Tweetizen

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At Tweetizen, you can discover new tweets by creating lists of hashtags you care about. Hashtags are organized into groups – this makes it easy to find tweets by subject.

Tweetizen

Yet another way to indulge my twitter addiction…..nice.

If you want to be less productive, try this drum set.

Drum Set

Written by TeacherC

1 March 2009 at 1:11 am

Avoiding Blog Market Failure (Comic)

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Entry summary: “How does the ed commentariat benefit the true proletariat (teachers)?”

“That Works….” – An EducatorBlog Comic

Diversification

Dangerously Irrelevant‘s Top 50 P-12 EdBlogs list sparked debates on multiple blogs (including mine) about the nature of the edublogopshere. Why do tech blogs dominate the Top 50? Are new bloggers being shut out of the edublog community? What responsibilities do veteran edubloggers have to new edubloggers?

I guess you could call me a ‘free market blogger’. I believe that the laws of supply and demand applies to the blogging market: when a consumer (reader) wants to find information, s/he can do a search on Google or Technorati to find the information they seek. All markets can experience failure. A failure in the blog market is when consumers cannot find the information they seek and producers are shielded from consumers who would like to read their blogs. Are there inefficiencies in the edublog market that are creating entry barriers for new bloggers? Are there blog titans that exert market power (monopolies/oligarchies)? Do these questions matter?

It’s cool that the education blog community is so aware of itself that it can engage in acts of meta-blog-nition, but as Dr. Phil once said (on an episode of Oprah…no, I don’t watch Dr. Phil): “there are topics and there are issues”. Although the inner-workings of the edublogosphere is an interesting topic, I wonder – why does the ed tech debate matter? What are the deeper issues?

This question is important to me. I start co-teaching/grad studies soon and I wonder how my blog will change as I transform from (naive) student to (slightly jaded but still optimistic) teacher in a Title I school. What can my blog do for me? What can it do for others? Does the ‘sphere matter? How does the ed commentariat benefit the true proletariat (teachers) and others with a stake in education (i.e., parents, administrators, community members, and the media)? There are large opportunity costs associated with bloggers’ time. Every minute a teacher or administrator spends writing a blog entry could be spent on professional development, out of class work, acts of advocacy in the community, or other aspects of life that are not related to education. What meaningful contribution can my blog make in solving issues of education and social justice?

What do you think, fellow ed commentariats? What are the real issues of the edublogosphere? Everyone will have different answers to these questions – please share.

Written by TeacherC

9 June 2008 at 12:30 am