Virtual Class Experience

11 Jul

So being a digital visitor, I was very uneasy about the virtual class on Friday.  Between my computer freezing up on several occasions and a set of headphones that reminded me of the drive-thru intercom at McDonald’s, I finally caved to my anxiety and drove into Reston for “Steve” support. Thank goodness I was not alone; I feel I got the best of both worlds, listening to the virtual version and having the interaction with my other classmates who braved the storm and Toll road.

I do think the virtual class was quite interesting with the various back channel and oral discussions going on at the same time. However, it can be a bit overwhelming to get that much sensory input, and I felt myself dancing between the visuals and the conversation. I suppose to some extent we do this in a real class setting, too,  so I do not know why it feels so different when everything is on a computer screen. I guess it is because you see all of it, including the “words” of a conversation. To make matters worse, at one point I lost my main screen, and Steve had to show me that it had been minimized (by a ghost student). Boy, did i feel like I was moving backwards instead of technically forwards. (Perhaps I have an undiagnosed sensory integration issue).  Nevertheless, it was an interesting experience, and I really enjoyed all of the videos and podcasts that were shared. And, shocker of all shockers, I did find some joy in writing my first tweet. I made sure among all the education Twitter accounts that I am following that I added one for Mr. Fogelberg as well. Hey, it’s my Twitter account!

I have taken several online courses through NoVa for my gen ed requirements, and I found them to be quite evil. There was no interaction, everything was done in solitude, and there was link upon link to access course materials that became a chore. I was so glad to return to a real classroom with real people and real books, etc etc etc.  I like the tech part of any class, and I do think my education is better for having access to everything out there on the Web, Cloud (and Twitter ;)) but if I had to choose, I would prefer to be in a class with others who can share their ideas, resources, and expressions in person.  I like hearing voices, seeing non-verbal cues, and having eye contact with the person with whom I am speaking. I am somewhat sad that after two very long years, our last class as a cohort will be virtual.  Though the drive home is long, I have always had a good ride laughing about something that happened in class. Hopefully that interaction will continue online for our last class, and I can chuckle all the way up my stairs to my waiting tub full of bubbles and my mug full of Dr. Pepper. So  I will log onto our class on Friday with my wonky computer and subpar speakers, and hope that I get to stay connected to all the discussions and virtual interactions. And if you see me heading up the Toll Road, well, let’s just leave your comments for Twitter.

For a different perspective, check out this video:  A Vision of Students Today

New Appreciation for Social Web Learning

8 Jul

Okay, so on my earlier post about this topic, I railed against the inane nature of Twitter. I still think it is a bizarre way to highlight your minute by minute happenings. However, I finally finished reading our chapters for this week (sorry, but the darn research paper is due, with a presentation too!). The info on RSS and social web tools was quite overwhelming at first, but I reread and reread and actually took some notes on the various tools that I must learn to use.  I had no idea there were so many ways to streamline your searches and connect with others searching for the same info. I signed up for Diigo when this course first started, not because I was tech savvy and ahead of the curve, but because somewhere on the Ed 554 blog the link was provided.(I actually thought it said Dingo, which I found nifty since it reminded me of those crazed animals that steal babies.)   After reading the Social web chapter, I now see that there are tools that I have desperately needed for some time. I have so many sites in my Favorites tab, I have folders inside of folders. And I never access a lot of them because there are just so many to review. Now that I have read about RSS, Diigo, and Delicious, I finally have a way to link, organize, update, etc. all my sites and searches. I think as a teacher, a social bookmarking service is invaluble for collaborating with other educators, finding lesson ideas, and helping students find and organize information. So now I have paper bookmarks on various pages in the chapter to help me learn how to use these social bookmark services, which somehow suits my digital visitor mentality. Baby steps.

Next, I just watched the video about the Connected Student. I must say that video really drives home what our students need to be effective and productive in the 21st century. The video presents a great overview of how students can drive their own learning using network connections and collaboration with others. There are a lot of great examples of how students use the social web to find, organize, and synthesize info. Seeing a visual image of how this student makes connections, finds information, and puts the Web tools to full use really underscores the responsibility I have as a teacher to educate, engage, and support my 21st century learners. So I guess I was shortsighted thinking the social web is just Twitter. I have a lot of work to do in order to incorporate all this new info into my limited digital brain. Unfortunately, I am not that teacher described at the end of the video. However,  I know that if I want to provide the best learning environment and lessons for my students, I need to make the social web an integral part of my class and life.

Digital Storytelling

26 Jun

I am really excited to begin the digital storytelling project. I checked out some examples from various sources, and this seems to be a wonderful way for students to share their ideas, activities, and experiences. I love the artwork available at StoryBird. I came home from class and started playing around with the site, and my daughter and I created a story in about 15 minutes. We did not publish it, since we are still experimenting, but it was interesting to observe how quickly my teen got engaged in the process at 10:00 at night (when she could have been on Facebook!) She told me in all her years at school, no teacher has ever used digital storytelling as part of their lessons. What a shame.  She was positively gleeful as she wove her tale about some crazy girl that grows up to be a pirate. She added multiple pages and pictures, and even when I told her she did not have to continue, she wanted to finish her story! Can you imagine how powerful this tool would be in a classroom of students wanting a new avenue to demonstrate their ideas and creative thoughts? I will be using this tool in my class for a variety of lessons. Check out this link for more examples. Scroll down to check out the digital story about idioms. Look at  the faces of the students who created it . You can see how much this activity impacted them!

Podcasts- Food for Thought

26 Jun

I really enjoyed watching the podcasts on Friday night. I never knew we had so many comedians in the bunch. As I watched the Gardening spot, I kept thinking of Saturday Night Live with their NPR impressions. Shabrayle definitely has a future as a radio personality! Even with all the humor embedded in the script, I actually learned a lot about both gardening and Mr. Pascal. The great thing about the podcasts is that we can watch them again and again and get more info about the topic. They are like a mini tutorial about the subject, with some laughs thrown in for fun.

Creating our podcast was actually fun, and our group had a lot of laughs to go with the serious nature of completing the project. I liked watching the final project come together and am proud we provided an overview about a topic dear (arh arh) to my heart.  It is very rewarding to see your work become something more than a paper or presentation that is soon forgotten. I was really excited to show my kids their old mama has a You Tube video to share. What was interesting was that my kids and their friends watched the entire video and asked questions about the information! This is especially rewarding given that they have made a vow not to think about anything of substance until August 31st. And even though it appears only Jen O. and I were on the Save the Bambi team (props to Jen!), my kids renewed my faith in crazed animal lovers by oohing over the pics of the sweet Bambi faces gracing the screen. Well, at least the girls did. My son kept making shotgun noises and has now decided that Gonacon is the answer to all the world’s evils. (He thinks we should give Gonacon to various groups in the Middle East). So I believe podcasting is definitely going to be a part of my teaching strategies for my students. It provides a lot of learning at many levels, from using tech tools to organizing materials to editing to publishing your work. This was definitely a worthwhile endeavor for both our class and personal skill development.

Social Networking-Huh?

26 Jun

Unlike the vast majority of  “students”  in the 21st century, I am one of the few remaining holdouts that believe social networking occurs on that dinosaur of early technology– the telephone!  I just do not get Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr, all of which my kids believe are required sites that must be accessed each day and/or hour. Each morning, they literally go from the slumber of their beds, bypass food and clothing, and head straight for the computer to check on recent messages that may have appeared since they logged off eight hours earlier. Some of those comments are a bit questionable, as if the anonymous  nature of Facebook gives you a pass on decorum, grammar, and good sense. Nevertheless, I realize these sites are the “phones “of today, and I should consider the choices they provide in keeping contact with friends and family.  I still do not have my own Facebook page, but I log onto my daughter’s account so I can keep track of what she is up to, as well as access my own friends. Last year, our cohort was staying in contact via Facebook, and I was out of the loop. So my daughter, Samantha, friend requested Lindsey so I could access her page ( I know, my own account would have been so much easier- digital visitor, duh). Every time I checked on the MU gang, one of Samantha’s friends would think she was logged on and start messaging her. When I told them it was her mom using her account, they would still keep chatting! I got to know some of her school friends whom I might never have met in person, and we had some interesting conversations. Now of course, Samantha is horrified I am chatting with her buddies, but I think of it as similar to talking with them around my kitchen counter, like my mom did back in the olden days. Either way, I am keeping tabs on the happenings in my kids’ lives, and embarrassing them as all parents should do. I will have to eventually break down and create a Facebook page, so my kids can show their face around school. Perhaps when I no longer have grad school requirements, I may have time to sit for hours on end reading about whatever Javier just told Katy about Paul.  As for Twitter, that may be a harder sell. I just checked out some celebrity posts on Twitter, and this is from Britney “I am PhD. material” Spears: Almost  finished with  my hair and makeup, Anaheim, see you soon, and Final dress rehearsal, here we go people. Huh? Why is this taking up space on the Cloud? I just so do not get the need for posting your every thought. Someone please explain.  If I do ever cave to the pressure to join, this will be my first Twitter post: Hey Ashburn, I’m making breakfast for my kids–they would rather have donuts than waffles; too bad, kids. Cat just threw up on the carpet for the 5th time this weekend. Anyone want a new pet? Cheap!

Again, I say, huh?

Storytelling- From Campfires to Computers

21 Jun
When I think of storytelling, I have an image of kids huddled around a campfire listening to a parent weave a tale about a deranged creature who lives in the forest somewhere near our campsite. The parent- usually my dad- spins the story with elaborate details. There are characters that seem so alive they may jump out at any moment, and images so vivid you can see them just beyond the flames of the fire. The plot is always fast-paced, and keeps you on the edge of your seat as you wait in dread to hear what happens next.  Everyone sits with eyes wide, legs shaking in part fear and part excitement, and chests that barely move for fear of letting go a gasp that gives away our position to the creature. The story always ends with a shocking twist, my dad cracking up laughing, and kids rolling on the ground holding their stomachs as they groan and moan at such a lame tale.

My own kids have been well trained by the family storytellers, and although they love the spooky tales, they also enjoy more tame stories about routine happenings. I have often retold a story from a book, and my kids will add their own ideas and details about how the story goes. They love to hear about the day each was born, our disastrous trip to Ocean City, the better vacations at Myrtle Beach, and the New Year’s Eve we spent in the emergency vet clinic. As they have gotten older, my kids have become the storytellers, sharing family histories with cousins, retelling the story from a favorite book, or giving great, graphic details about their mother driving through Richmond during a torrential downpour with no gas, no radio, two hungry kids, and a cat howling in the backseat. They are kind enough to substitute new vocabulary in place of the colorful words that were actually screamed during that nightmare drive. They laugh hysterically as they add more and more to the story, knowing full well none of what  they are saying actually happened (I did not run down a man standing on an overpass and steal his box of doughnuts, screaming “snooze, you lose, sucker!” )

As a teacher, storytelling is a staple of my curriculum. We use stories to introduce ourselves at the start of each school year, to share our field trip experiences, or to provide parents with an overview of our latest project. I use storytelling to model “retelling” a story, so students may learn how to pull out the important parts of a book.  Students use storytelling to share their family histories, their experiences, and their understanding about ideas and topics we are studying. We also use storytelling to create our own stories about imaginary characters, places, and events.  I find my students love to join me on our special reading carpet, and listen as I tell them a story about a famous person, a journey to another place, or a cast of characters that are on an adventure. They love to create their own stories, and even when they do not have the skills to write the words, they find success dictating to a recorder (human or tape), illustrating their tale, and sharing their creation with their friends.  All in all, storytelling brings the class and curriculum to life. Now with the addition of digital storytelling, it will be interesting to see how technology impacts the usual storytelling of both myself and my students. I am excited at the prospect of adding moving images, music, and other media to add more “color” to the stories of my students.

For older posts…

17 Jun

For my older posts, while I was still using Edublogs, please go to