Wednesday, March 28, 2012
As a future ESL teacher I can see this medium used in many ways. In the classroom, Facebook can be used as an information hub for the class and parents, where information on the class, assignments, resources and discussions can be held collectively to further provide educational tools inside and outside the classroom. Facebook use encourages, reading and writing in both a native or second language, sharing of ideas across the globe, and cultural awareness i.e. language, customs, beliefs. I see using social network platforms, that some adolescents are already so familiar with, as a way to engage them in writing, reading and using the language in meaningful ways that help them to learn. Using these resources in the classroom also teaches valuable technology skills to students who may not have prior access. For bilingual students or recent immigrants, Facebook can be used to stay connected with the home country while also providing continued use of their first language.
The most obvious dangers surrounding Facebook evolve from denial and restriction of use by parents, which can lead to an uninformed entrance to the world of Facebook by adolescents. Since so many schools and businesses today use Facebook as a filtering system, by highlighting strengths, we can help students build strong and positive Facebook platforms of themselves, and use Facebook like an extended media resume or portfolio of the self. By teaching children the dangers and consequences that result from poor choices made on the internet, we can begin to use these valuable resources as tools in the classroom and in society as a whole.
As an introduction, the class could create a page together, where the students learn of the various settings and rules, functions and components, and become familiar with the valuable amenities that the medium has to offer. With the knowledge we hold of how popular social networking cites like Facebook are, and the notion that they will be used by adolescents, we need to address the social fears and problems that are intertwined in the medium to teach our children how to safely and tactfully use these available resources, by discussing current events on the subject, and addressing students concerns and questions. By setting examples for effective and productive use of social networking, we can prevent many of the problems that cause so much of the negative critiques toward it. Therefore, the job and duty of parents and teachers is to bring the positives and the negatives to the forefront of a child's attention and channel energies into the more positive aspects. In the twenty first century technology and media are becoming more important in the daily lives of people. As teachers, it is our job to not only teach academic subject matter to our students, but also to teach life skills. With this ever growing dependency on technology to perform tasks and skills in the world, addressing these platform’s uses is a crucial life skill in today's day and age. The pros outweigh the cons when it comes to social networking platforms used by adolescents. Once we have effectively taught students how the media works and how they can use it productively in their lives, the education process can begin.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Twitter: the micro-blogging platform that limits user posts to 140 characters or less. But it is more than just a micro-blog or a Web 2.0 platform. Twitter has evolved into a community—one that consists of countless subcultures—that connects users both locally and globally. These sub-cultures and sub-communities are often contextualized and differentiated using hashtags, which are denoted by using a preceding # sign. As a micro-blog, Twitter differs from other blogging platforms in that it is more fast-paced and conversational—one might even say that it combines blogging with instant messaging. This set-up makes interacting feel more genuine and less contrived than posting to a discussion board, or even a class blog. Twitter-users are constantly engaged in sharing, filtering, sorting, cataloging and archiving information.
How are adolescents using Twitter and how can Twitter be used in a class-setting? Not only are adolescents using Twitter to express and share their own ideas, but they also comment on local and global events and issues. They are building and shaping their identities through tweeting original content, retweeting (sharing something someone previously tweeted), and selecting tweets as favorites. In a class-setting, Twitter is ideal for encouraging participation and extension of learning. For example, using Twitter, a student who is generally quiet in class has the ability to transfer his or her internal thoughts and externalize them. Twitter encourages participation beyond just providing an alternative to raising one’s hand or offering verbal responses in class; it opens up opportunities for students to connect with other students, academics and professionals. They experience exposure to and participation in learning communities, in which the very things they are learning in class are tangible and relevant to real-life.
Teachers can create Twitter accounts specifically for certain classes they teach and use the account to post announcements or questions for students to think about and answer, expand upon class conversations, share relevant resources and other media—including websites, videos, pictures—that relates to the class. Students can also pose questions, share information and resources, and engage in collaborative learning. They are just as involved in exploring as the teacher. To guide and mediate class discussions online, teachers can implement hashtags for students to use when posting for class. Another useful feature is creating lists—these can be used to keep track of students participating in the Twitter conversations and can also serve as a resource of other Twitter users students can follow and interact with. All of these features contribute to teaching students the value and benefits of being part of a community, as well as how to be responsible digital citizens.
Some potential cons to using Twitter in class are that it might end up being more of a distraction. Twitter can be, and is, fun—students will be challenged to balance this sentiment with their academic work. There is the risk of students using Twitter for other purposes—including cyberbullying. Also, there is an issue of accessibility—some students may not have access to a computer or the Internet at home and might feel left out of this extension and exploration beyond the classroom. Because Twitter is a global social network, it is difficult for teachers to keep tabs on all of the personal connections students make beyond the class-use of Twitter. The Internet continues to be a hunting ground for things like identity theft and other scams. This provides a teaching opportunity to teach about discretion and the consequence of over-divulging on a public forum. When using Twitter for class purposes, teachers should model good digital citizenship practices and teach that as part of their lessons.
Adolescents, as a group, are incredibly active contributors to YouTube material. It is a platform with which nearly all students are familiar, and even if some are not, its user-friendliness makes it easy to bring students up to speed for use as a learning tool. Adolescents not only use YouTube to feel their thoughts are legitimate, but also to experiment with professional fields such as reporting and the arts.
YouTube has been used in projects around engaging children and adolescents in healthy eating[i], but its power as a teaching tool may be underutilized. Although using it for Universal Design for Learning may take some creativity considering the need for active and even public contribution to most parts of the broadcasting process, its power lies in its popularity and familiarity among students, its ability to provoke competition, and its capacity for students to make it emotionally relevant. Popular videos on YouTube have emotional draws to them, so creating lessons around researching, analyzing, and judging the successful elements- such as emotional draw, length, production value, etc – would be engaging, and further, could be used for the first part of low to high sequencing of a SAFE lesson1.
 Adapted from: Crawford, Glenda. Differentiation for the Adolescent Learner : Accommodating Brain Development, Language, Literacy, and Special Needs. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin PressPrint.
“Set up” the content knowledge base. These questions focus on basic comprehension and factual responses.
Pose questions that are more “analytic” in nature and require students to interpret knowledge through contextual clues.
“Focus” thinking in a new direction.
Stimulate “evaluative” thinking which persuades students to appraise, assign value, and reflect.
Once students are set-up with research guidelines for YouTube searches and analyze the effective elements, teachers could move onto focusing the students on creating a video of their own and have students evaluate it based on the number of previously identified elements they incorporate and on the number of hits their video gets (which they can establish based on similar video and which provides a challenge).
This same type of lesson can be used to train students to recognize the reasons behind the publishing of videos on YouTube and to criticize and evaluate their validity, legitimacy, and potential for impact. This critical understanding would arm them against the persuasive content that may be targeting them that does not consider their wellbeing, which expands well beyond food. I work with a non-profit organization called FoodFight (foodfight.org) that does work similar to this lesson and is seeing staggering changes in teachers’ and high school students’ attitudes towards food across New York City. FoodFight offers workshops, curriculum materials, and support to guide teachers and their students to a completely different way of thinking about food and how food impacts our lives. Teachers and students become, in a sense, food detectives. This cultivation of detective-like critical lenses and voices is essential to life skills. And so if YouTube can help us with that cultivation, then let us use it to teach towards heartier educational harvests. Too far with the metaphor? Sorry. I get pretty excited about food.
Monday, March 26, 2012
By: Brent Peaslee
Education may be the most exciting field to enter during this technological era. The traditional rules of teaching are being entirely rethought. What and how a student learns once were dependent on where a student lives and the economic status of both that region and of their own family. Now with savvy Internet skills and the will to learn, a world class education can be free. Typically I am a strong opponent of technology in the classroom. I see it as a novelty rather than an effective teaching tool. Even young students in middle school whom I have helped tutor see the flaw in firing teachers to hire smart boards and ipads. In 2009 Congress released an eight year study that found no academic advantage to using technology in the classroom (Mathematica, 2009). However, after personal research it is apparent that the Internet can be an effective teaching aid if used and marketed to students correctly.
These two websites, www.khanacademy.org, and www.TED.com, are tools that will define education in the near future. The Khan Academy is a free service that tutors students on a wide variety of subjects from pre-algebra to calculus to American politics and economics. Teachers can track and aid their own students. Adolescents to adults are using this free service to educate themselves on topics of interest or even as a free tutor for difficult classes. TED videos are short 5-20 minute lectures from individuals who are at the top of their fields. The mission of TED talks is to spread ideas that can help improve the world. The video links and transcripts of the lectures are free and typically very enjoyable to hear. How can these online resources positively affect my field of teaching?
The focus of my degree is Teaching English as a Second Language. If my students are adolescents then most of my students are taking courses outside of my ESL classroom. They will be taking math, science, history and other required academic classes. Many of them will be pulled out of these classes to enter mine and most of them will be struggling with all of these subjects. These are strong minds who are simply experiencing difficulty communicating their ideas. These two websites will be vital in my classroom. The Khan Academy has nearly every subject that my students will encounter from 6th to 12th grade. With over 2700+ videos in English, and many translated into other languages, this site has the potential to save my students’ education. They will simultaneously work on their English while keeping up with their academic classes. The TED videos will be a way to connect with my students. They will have access to the elites in their fields of interest, such as gaming, arts, and entertainment, while being exposed to the English Language on a topic they love. These sites are an invaluable resource to my classroom.
Both of these sources have been critically acclaimed all over the world. Their greatest downfall is that they are only found on the Internet. This modality is both a great education tool and a great distraction to an individual’s education. The pitfalls of the Internet have been well documented. It is a great time waster and it provides exposure to the worst aspects of humanity. All of this within a few clicks away. As a teacher I think it is important to know that students can and will access the negative aspects of the Internet, but if you emphasize the benefits (Khan Academy, TED videos) they will have exposure to the positive aspects of the Internet as well. It is impossible to make someone want to learn, however these sites can connect learning with a student’s interests. Allowing my adolescent students to choose which Khan Academy lessons most apply to them or which TED talks relate to their interests I am providing them with the freedom they want while still achieving my own course objectives. The negative aspects of the Internet may always exist but websites like the Khan Academy and TED Talks will steer students in the right direction.
Mathematica. (2009). Educational technology: Does it improve academic achievement?. Retrieved from http://www.mathematica-mpr.com/education/edtech.asp