Monday, March 31, 2014

Week 10 - Internet Safety

There are times where I begin to think that our constant preaching about Internet safety is the "Just Say No" campaign of our time.  From the time our students start school, they are beaten over the head with keeping their passwords secret, being careful with whom they interact on-line, and not sharing any personal information with people they don't know.

The question that we have to ask ourselves how effective all of this preaching has been.  It hasn't stopped cyber-bullying; it hasn't stopped sexting; it hasn't stopped cyber-stalking.

Please do not misunderstand, I am not suggesting that we stop the campaign because it hasn't stopped all of those issues.  If any of those have saved even one person from any suffering, they have been worth it.  I am just asking whether or not students have become so used to hearing the words "be careful," or "don't cyber-bully" that those words don't mean anything or mean much less to them anymore.

What we have not done a good job of is encouraging students to improve their on-line presence.  We have encouraged them to be careful about what they post to their social media accounts, but have we taught them how to post other things to the web that show how thoughtful they can be, how creative they can be, or how intelligent they can be?

This should be the focus of a high school technology curriculum.  High school students are going to be applying to colleges or for jobs.  They should have something to show admissions officers or employers about the things that they can do, that they can and are willing to learn how to use new technologies and come up with solutions to problems that might be presented to them.  Skills are becoming more and more important for our students to be successful as they continue in their career fields down the road.  If we are not giving them opportunity to show off the skills they have now and the skills that they are going to learn, then we are not doing our job.  This is an attitude that must change in our high schools if we are to help our students improve their futures.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Week 9 - Professional Development Training

This has been a difficult week for me to participate in class as much as I normally would.  We had MCAS this week and, as one of the coordinators for the testing, my focus was on getting prepared for that everyday.  By the end of the week, I had picked up a nasty cold that had me leaving school early and spending most of the weekend under the weather.  That being said, I feel as if this week has truly given my the opportunity to explore what I think is the future of the high school librarian/media specialist.

While it is going to continue to be important for the librarian to encourage students to read, to help them find good books to read, an to challenge them to expand their horizons through reading, it is going to be far more important for the librarian to help teachers and staff use technology effectively and intelligently with students.  Teachers are not going to have the time to explore the many different apps available to them.  Demands on their time seem to be added continually to their primary job of working with students.  It will be up to librarians to work with teachers to develop lessons around new apps and new technology.

Librarians are going to have to work to discover new apps and new ways to use them.  It will be up to the librarian to bring ideas to classroom teachers as to how these apps will make their jobs easier or allow their students an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge.  As teachers find apps, they will need to feel comfortable going to the librarian and explain what they are looking from the app.  Librarians will not be content specialists per se, but they will have to have a working knowledge of what is going on in every classroom so as to be better able to assist classroom teachers.

It may always have been the case that librarians have worked with teachers on specific assignments, but, in my experience, that knowledge has centered on a research angle: "Here is how to access the databases that we have" or "If you are looking for some information about that, you can check this site."  With the changes in technology, the responsibilities of the librarian must change with them.

The answer to the inevitable question, how does the librarian have time to do all of these things and still do the job he/she has, is the idea of constant professional development.  Librarians must use as many different kinds of social media and professional organizations as possible to remain current not only in their own specialty, but also in the specialties of the people they teach with.  They must be willing to move outside their comfort zone and learn about things that they may not feel comfortable with.  They must be willing to try and create things with any app or piece of technology that they come across.  They must be willing to put themselves out on the front lines and work to persuade/encourage others to try they otherwise would not.  It cannot be a job of sitting back and waiting for people to find them.  Librarians must be the first person to try new things and be willing to deal with the eye rolls and sighs from colleagues as they introduce new ideas.

This is how I picture my future job and I am excited for the opportunity.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Week 8 - Technology Integration in the Classroom

This week's work has been central to what I am trying to do with my students as often as I can in my classroom.  Students need to have experience in using and be exposed to as many different applications as possible so that they can determine on their own which application is the one to use for various assignments that they will get as they continue their education or enter the job market.  I believe it is my responsibility to expose them to these apps and teach them to use these applications.

As I look at my colleagues, I see very few of them trying to bring web 2.0 tools into their classrooms.  I am sure that there are any number of reasons for their reluctance to do this, but I struggle to accept these reasons.  There are all sorts of studies that would suggest that teachers feel most comfortable teaching as they were taught.  While this may have been effective in the past, it no longer reaches as many students as it used to.  We must to do as good a job as we can to prepare students for what is going to happen when they walk out our classroom door, such as:

  1. Having students create poster projects should no longer be acceptable.  These are concepts that they mastered when they were in 3rd grade. By the time they reach high school, they should be taking that same poster project concept and using an app such as glogster to present the same information.  Glogster would also allow them to embed video and sound from other web addresses or that students themselves create.
  2. Timelining should not be on a piece of paper.  It can be put on an app such as that would allow students to include pictures, and links to other sites so that visitors can find more information
  3. PowerPoint is a 6th grade tool.  Prezi will do the same thing, but, again, allow students to embed other information.
These are just the beginning of a list of tools that students must be comfortable using.  Whatever apps students use, they should portable and not platform based.  I want the apps my students work with to be available to them where ever they have access to the Internet, and not dependent on whether they are using a Mac or a PC, or explorer or chrome.

My current preferred app is Aurasma, which allows students to create their own "augmented reality" (AR).  We see AR quite often in sporting events, i.e. the "first and 10" line in football games, and more and more companies are using as part of in-store promotions.  Students who are exposed to this will have an advantage over others in any number of ways, and preparing our students to be ready to compete in a tough college application or job market is what we need to do.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Week Seven Blog Post - Social Networking, Virtual Worlds, and Online Gaming

The social networking that I do is one of the most valuable pieces of my job.  I was turned on to Twitter a few years ago, and, while originally I saw no real value in it, I have since learned that being a connected educator is essential in this age.  The weekly chats that I have been a part of (#sschat most often, #pblchat and #ntchat less frequently) have helped me better serve my students and share resources with other teachers to help them become more connected. It is what Twitter has provided for me that has motivated to take this course and, eventually, work to earn a degree in Library/Media Studies.  I have found that I enjoy working with teachers to plan curriculum with a technological focus of some kind.  I saw this tweet come across my feed and realized that I could be the one to help bring as many teachers as possible into the 21st Century.
I would not be here without social networking.

I also feel that I need to teach my students the importance of being careful what they post on any social network that they are on.  I have worked hard to make sure that each of them has their blog space/web site so that if and when someone, either for college or a job, does a search for them on the web, they will have a positive presence.

That being said, I don't think that all social networks are equal.  By way of full disclosure, I do not have a Facebook page, nor do I want one.  There just seems to be far too much posting and liking of things that do not interest me or make me better personally or professionally.  Are there things that are interesting in passing?  Sure.  But, I believe that Twitter serves my needs far better than Facebook ever could.

I also do not understand the fascination with virtual worlds.  I have watched my son play minecraftedu and either he does not truly understand what he is supposed to do or I don't.  I watched as he played at a friend's house recently and saw him build a pool for ocelots that he went on to put a roof over so they couldn't get out.  When I asked him why he did that, he wasn't really sure, but he said he had fun with it.  I know that there are games for all sorts of things, but I couldn't see how this was helping him beyond the creativity factor.

On-line gaming has its place in the world of education, but I don't know about those multiplayer games.  I love and mission:us and love encouraging my students to play them.  When I introduced to my sophomore classes a couple of years ago, I watched in awe as the boys played the games and I don't think they realized that they were learning along the way.  Giving them scores to reach in those games in order to earn some kind of formative assessment points only encourages them to be a part of the experience.  It has been a great discovery and one that I hope continues to grow.

I do get nervous, however, about some of the more violent multiplayer games as I feel it desensitizes our students to the violence they see around them everyday.  Those graphics in those games are so realistic that I think some students have a hard time separating fantasy from reality.

Overall, we need to make sure that we are helping our students navigate through their on-line worlds, be there social networking, virtual worlds, or gaming.  They are going to make mistakes, but if we can walk them more gently through the process, eventually they will learn.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Week Six Blog Post - Video and the Modern Librarian

I love making videos.  Maybe better said, I love making screencasts.  As part of my efforts to flip my classroom, something I am becoming a bigger and bigger believer in and something that I could see being really successful in a 1:1 or BYOD environment, I have become a pretty frequent poster of videos to YouTube.  I use screencast-o-matic to make most of my tutorials.  It is as straight forward a process as there could be to do something like this.  The process that I have come up with is to write a script, create a PowerPoint based on the script, go to to find creative commons licensed images, add them to the PowerPoint, and then record away.  You can see any of the ones that I have created here at my website.  For those students that do not have internet access, something that I cannot assume they have, I have saved these screencasts as both quicktime and windows viewable options on a CD/DVD so that they can viewed on a computer without internet access.  I think it is so valuable to meet students where they are at and I think that video is the best way to do that.

That being said, I think that students should be making their own videos.  It is not as hard as it once was and, in many cases, they don't even a video camera to make something happen.  I have been having my students create their own "Ken Burns-style" videos for the past few years and the pay off for that came a couple of years ago.  One day in between classes, one of my students came bouncing into my room saying "you'll never guess what."  Well, when they start with statements like that, I am always a loss for what comes next.  So, as I sat there with a stunned look on my face, she told me that her video on Dred Scott had something around 2,000 views (it now has over 4,000).  The smile on her face was worth everything that I had done as a teacher, and when she walked out of the room saying "I may have taught someone about Dred Scott," I could have walked away from teaching as a success.  It is that power that having students create videos has for me.  Yes, there are the skills of planning and creating that go into the video, but the video is only valuable if it is watched by others.  There was power for her in the realization that someone may have learned something because of what she had created and that should be the goal of everything we have our students create.

Along with that, though, comes issues surrounding copyright and fair use policies.  We have recently had a number of issues surrounding plagiarism at my school, which I am sure is not unique to us.  Students live in a world where everything is public knowledge and information, and different things are "mashed up" into a compilation.  What they don't seem to understand is that someone has put time and effort into creating those things that they are mashing together and they deserve credit for it, if not to be paid.  Given that so many of them are egocentric, I wonder if asking them if they felt they should be paid or have credit given to them if someone else used something they created in a presentation.  How would they feel?  Would they want to be paid for their creation?  Would they want to be credited with helping that person learn something?  I don't know if those sorts of things matter to this group of people.

The librarian, therefore, becomes the most important figure in protecting the rights of those who have created something.  The librarian at our school has prepared a wonderful presentation on plagiarism and when to cite sources, and is always prepare to share it with anyone who asks.  My fear is that we as teachers are not asking our students to do as much true research as we used to, and, therefore, we don't utilize the librarian in that traditional role of helping us find information anymore.  In the past, the librarian was someone who pointed us in the right direction to begin our research.  Now, research is a "google search" away.  If no one comes to the librarian asking for help with research, how can we provide help for them?  I don't think that we, as teachers, want to deal with plagiarism anymore and so we assign questions that are "ungoogleable" or are based on the documents that we provide to the students and, therefore, there is little need for them to cite sources beyond the "in document #1" style.  Have we become more concerned with their ability to analyze documents/literature and ask them only to support a thesis with evidence from the text rather than use the thoughts of an "expert" on the topic?  Is the traditional research paper a thing of the past?  Has the internet made documents easy to reach and decipher and on-line publishing made disseminating of this information too easy?  Is it possible that we can all be experts on a given topic and, therefore, there is no need to cite anyone else?

We, as librarians, have to go out to teachers and address our concerns for proper citation of sources with them.  We need to be part of conversations about research papers.  We must go out and ask the teachers in our buildings what are they asking their students to do for research, not can I help you set some research activity up.  We must be active in convincing teachers of the need to have their students do research and that we will be there to help them as they go.  There may have been a time when the librarian could sit back and wait for people to come to them with questions and concerns about their research.  That time has past and if we wish to be a part of helping teachers and students do research in the future, we must change how we view ourselves and our roles in buildings.