Monday, September 7, 2009

A World Without Walls

At first glance, there is nothing out of the ordinary that can be seen
in the picture attached to this blog post. Yes, it is merely a
picture of a field, the sky, and the open road. More detail, however,
brings to light the impressive nature of this picture (and blog
post). The "cool factor" can be found in the way in which it is
shared. As I write this blog post, I am riding in a car somewhere in
Arkansas, yet I am able to share an image of what I am viewing outside
of my car window with anyone who so chooses to read my blog on the
world wide web. And just think, one of my blog followers may be
viewing my blog via a handheld device - also riding in a car in a
rural area. Oh, what does this say about the world in which we live,
the communication tools available to us, and the impact it will
continue to have on our lives. Think also how this can change
education. Classrooms without walls are continually being redefined.
That said, perhaps my following comment could go without saying, but
for those who have any doubt about the situation, let me make this
clear: I love my iPhone.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Are Students a Barrier or Catalyst to Technology-Integrated School Reform?

Two of my students presented an analysis of Dead Poets Society today in class. Although I have seen the movie several times, there is a point that is not frequently considered in reviews of such movies. Talk is often made about the role of the teacher, John Keating (Robin Williams), and the constructivist, student-centered perspective that he used. His animation and energy for life and teaching are often emphasized. However, less talk is often centered around the role of the students in this classroom environment. Specifically, talk of their reluctance (at least initially) to conform to new, innovative, out-of-the-box teaching practices is not usually given as much attention or thought. Nevertheless, this perspective is one that many teachers today are facing as they are seeking to advocate the use of technology in their schools.

Students of all ages may see relevance for using technology in their everyday life. However, they may see less purpose for allowing such innovation to be used as a teaching tool. They look around the room and at each other, seeming to question the fact that technology could be used within the context of learning other relevant content.

Sure, there is the perception that all of our students are digital natives, living and breathing with technology. However, this is not always true. They, like many teachers, have to learn technological skills (e.g., Web 2.0 tools). Likewise, they want to see the purpose behind the technological use (i.e., technology integration).

Certainly, it is an interesting age in which we live. Many educators and citizens want to see positive school reforms implemented -- especially such reforms that embrace technology. However, the change is likely going to be a gradual process. eSchoolnews offers some survey results related the barriers of Web 2.0 is schools.

What do you think? Are students a barrier or a catalyst to technology integration in your school?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Should Schools be Open 12 Months a Year?

During a visit to a school in Denver, Colorado, United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told his audience, "You're competing for jobs with kids from India and China. I think schools should be open six, seven days a week; 11, 12 months a year" (see the related article on Denver's local news at As I read his comment, it sparked my curiosity enough to do some investigating on the topic of calendar modification as it relates to student achievement. Based on my quick review, substantial evidence does not directly support a modified school schedule. An AERA published article says it this way: "Thus it would be inappropriate to suggest that the current evidence indicates that modified calendars have a significantly positive impact on achievement, in the practical sense" (Cooper, Valentine, Charlton, & Melson, 2003).  The authors further mention that a longitudinal study on the topic of calendar modification is needed to more closely examine the cumulative effects of such a change (pg. 43).  Likewise, Cooper and his colleagues further identified the reality that calendar modification tends to benefit student from economically disadvantaged backgrounds more than others.  In large part this is due to the realities that students in such environments are less likely to participate in extra-curricular activities (e.g., going to the zoo, park, museum, or vacation) as compared to those with a more affluent home life.

To my knowledge, Secretary Duncan has not expanded on his comment in order to shed more light on the types of reform such a reality could bring.  Will all students be attending this schedule if it is implemented?  Will teachers receive more pay for their continued dedication and hard work?

I seriously doubt many students will be in favor of such a change, especially if they are already working hard to meet the demands of an accountability-driven, standards based system. Educational quality is improving because of such accountability-based reforms, but does that mean our system should also modify the quantity of education for all students.  Until Secretary Duncan shares more insight about his suggested reforms, what do you think about modifying the current educational calendar?  

Cooper, H., Valentine, J. C., Charlton, K., & Melson, A. (2003).  The effects of modified school calendars on student achievement and on school and community attitudes.  Review of Educational Research.  73(1), 1-52.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Resources to Teach Digital Citizenship

As we live in a world surrounded by digital technologies, today's students are communicating and socializing in new ways. Facebook, Twitter and text messaging alone are rapidly expanding the social network of students. Even further, such tools offer new opportunities for learning, and are even reshaping what it means to be a student in the 21st century.

Of great concern, however, are issues related to how our students are using such tools. Often, students are living in a world absent of parental guidance. Some students are networking with strangers, using their cell phone to take and post lewd photographs of themselves (a.k.a., sexting), and be involved in such activities as cyberbullying.

To help reduce inappropriate uses of technology, educators have established guidlines and curricular materials to combat such challenges. Mike Ribble and Dr. Gerald Bailey have written, "Digital Citizenship in Schools" (2007), which is available from ISTE. Likewise, CyberSmart! offers free lesson plans to help teachers educated students about SMART technology use.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Free Publications from the U.S. Department of Education

The U.S. Department of Education offers FREE educational publications on the ED Pubs website: . On occasion, I browse the list of "Recently Added Publications" and "Top 10 Publications." The resources are not only relevant to research, but also to practical concerns, including as brochures that can be distributed and shared with parents and community members. If you haven't viewed the ED Pubs website, I recommend it, as many publications are available as electronic documents (e.g., .PDF files), while others can be shipped to you free of charge. I have found some great resources on the site, and believe other educators could also find some quality information here as well.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

BBQ, Blues, and Snow

I'm not sure which is a more unique view: snow in Memphis, TN or an empty Best Buy parking lot. Well, considering this picture was taken before the well-known consumer electronics store opened, it would have to be the snow. Memphis got 3-4 inches of snow over the weekend. I can't say that I am a fan of driving in the snow, but I enjoy watching it fall and seeing the winterized scenes it provides.

Friday, February 27, 2009

FHU School of Education Provides Interview Opportunity for Education Majors

The Freed-Hardeman University School of Education will be providing an opportunity for Education majors to interview for a job. On March 9, 2009, representatives from the following schools will be on campus to conduct interviews of FHU Education majors:

- Jackson-Madison County Schools
- Fayette County Schools
- Tipton County Schools
- West Tennessee Children's Home
- Columbia Academy

Students interested in making an appointment for an interview are encouraged to stop by the School of Education or call 731-989-6074.

Additional school personnel who would also like to be present to interview FHU Education majors on March 9, 2009 are encouraged to attend. Interested parties should call 1-888-348-6116 and ask to speak with Rhonda Jones or Gloria Sneed.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Reasons for Educators to Blog

The latest edition of Learning and Leading with Technology (March/April 2009, Vol 36 No. 6) includes an article about blogging by Rachel Peters, a nationally board certified teacher. The article, "Hooked on Classroom Blogging", explains how she used a blog to communicate with her American students as she took an Earthwatch-invited trip to Vietnam to study butterflies.

Her experience offers some helpful tips to those who are new to blogging. In addition to pointing out the importance of using "quizzes and rewards" as a way to gain student interest in reading her blog, she also provides a list of ten reasons why educators should blog. Her list includes the following:

1. It's free. There's no charge for most accounts, and most don't even have advertising.
2. It's a quick and simple way to share ideas, photos, and thoughts.
3. You don't need paperwork because you're not using the district's server.
4. Students can access it anywhere they can log on to the Internet.
5. You can use it in place of your weekly newsletter.
6. If kids are going there, they're reading. Reading is good!
7. If kids are posting, they're thinking and writing. This is good, too!
8. You can use it as your class Web page, adding links to sites your students will access during the school year.
9. Older posts are archived and easy to access.
10. You can use it to build community. Your students can get to know you outside of the classroom.

What about you? How do you use blogging as an educational tool?