Friday, July 18, 2014

Time for K-12 Education to Capitalize and Embrace Virtual Learning Opportunities

In the 21st century, it is impossible to dismiss the powerful possibilities that exist due to online learning delivery systems. I have seen that learning evolve over the years from models where teachers simply tried to "teach as they did face-to-face" in these online environments, to today, where teaching has evolved with techniques only possible in these virtual places of learning. I've seen more and more universities embrace virtual learning, while K-12 public schools continue to pay homage to the necessity of students sitting physically in front of teachers.

We K-12 educators have dabbled in virtual learning with our online class providers, but we still have this need to make sure that learning is still placed within the context of a four-by-four block schedule. Somehow the idea that learning can only occur within the four walls of classroom stubbornly hangs on. We still limit students to taking only four credits a semester or six credits a year because why? Somehow we are afraid that students might get ahead and learn something earlier than they should. In other words, K-12 education has hindered the growth of online learning because of an unwillingness to let go of structures and rules designed to make sure all students advance through the system and graduate at the same pace. But why? Why can't K-12 embrace online learning as much as higher education has?

Certainly we do have students not ready to effectively learn online, but perhaps it's our job to make them ready. Do we use this excuse to avoid allowing students to expand their learning virtually because some aren't ready for it? There are many of our students capable of learning just as well through online learning. Public schools have an obligation to meet the needs of all students, and that includes not holding those back who could take 10 classes a year rather than the prescribed 8. So what if they earn enough credits to graduate early! Perhaps we should rethink the length of time it takes to graduate. At any rate, as the infographic below indicates, online learning continues to grow. With this growth, let's start talking about ways of capitalizing on the learning opportunities this phenomenon offers instead of continuing to force all students to learn at the same rates and in the same manner.


Growth of Online Education

Source: OnlineSchoolsCenter.com

Thursday, July 17, 2014

ASCD Offers Professional Development Resources to Support New Teachers

Alexandria, VA (7/17/2014)ASCD, a global community dedicated to excellence in learning, teaching, and leading, is pleased to offer a variety of professional development resources for new teachers entering the education profession this upcoming school year. Through ASCD resources, teachers will find support from leading experts and veteran educators who understand the challenges of the early years in the classroom.

“Becoming a teacher can be a rich and rewarding experience, but it can also be a challenging one,” said Judy Seltz, ASCD acting executive director. “That’s why ASCD is committed to providing teachers at every level with the tools, resources, and support they need to ensure their success for the upcoming school year and throughout their careers as educators.” 

ASCD Book Bundles for Teachers
ASCD has compiled several book bundles specifically for teachers’ professional development. Each bundle is packed with sound advice, strategies, and solutions for teachers seeking to improve their practices. 
Enhance Your Professional Career
  • Join ASCD—ASCD membership offers more information and ideas about learning and teaching than any other single source. Multiple membership levels offer an increasing number of valuable benefits and resources, including substantial savings on ASCD publications.
  • Pathfinder—This new ASCD membership benefit offers a variety of practical articles for educators at any career stage who want to expand or redefine their jobs.
Join ASCD’s Social Networks
  • #ASCDL2L Twitter chat—ASCD (@ASCD) invites educators to participate in a monthly conversation about learning, teaching, and leading during the Tuesday night #ASCDL2L Twitter chat. Held on the firstTuesday of each month using #ASCDL2L, the chat allows participants to submit questions, share insights, and offer resources that help all educators support the success of each learner.
  • Pinterest—ASCD has added a new pin board to the ASCD Pinterest page that is specifically for new teachers entering the education profession. The New Teacher Resource board features practical articles, publications, and other professional development resources that will enhance new teachers’ practices in the classroom.
  • Instagram—Follow ASCD on Instagram and get a glimpse inside ASCD events, read inspiring quotes from ASCD experts, learn about ASCD publications, and interact with our community through inspiring pictures and videos.
In addition, teachers can connect with ASCD via other award-winning social media channels including Twitter,FacebookGoogle+, and LinkedIn. ASCD’s social media presence connects ASCD with educators and allows ASCD to share unique content that is dedicated to learning, teaching, and leading.
For more information about ASCD, visit www.ascd.org or read the 2013 Annual Report.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Five-Paragraph Essay & PowerPoint Presentations: Fossils from the Past

In may, I became an official Mac User. This occurred after being a PC user whose experience with computers began all the way back to MS DOS and Windows 3.1. My first personal computer was a Windows 3.1 Dell computer whose processor was less powerful than those found in phones, and you can purchase flash drives that have more storage space than my first hard drive.

If I really confess about my own computer experiences, the very first computer that I used was actually a Mac. Back in the beginning of my teaching career, our media center at the high school where I taught had a Macintosh lab which included 25 Macintosh SE computers, networked together, complete with a Mac printer. I was one of the few teachers in my building that constantly brought students into the media center to use these machines. Mind you, this was before there was a single Internet connection in the school, so we primarily used these computers for the creation of printed documents. My students created some real flashy brochures, newsletters, and magazines for their in-class projects.

Looking back to that experience now, almost 25 years later, there was an excitement in those classes. My students, most of which at that time would have not had computers at home, were excited at being able to engage in both the use of technology, and in the use of that technology to create original content. As a teacher, I was excited as well because my students and I were engaged in learning quite different from what any other teachers and students were engaged in in the entire building. The excitement of being pioneers and pushing learning beyond the edges motivated both my students and myself. We literally monopolized the computers and the computer lab because at that time, no one else saw any future in it.

Today, my lesson plans in 1988 would hardly be considered integrating technology into learning, and rightfully so. Just getting students to do what they could without technology hardly means capitalizing on technology. Today, teachers who subject their students to endless PowerPoint presentations are hardly getting students to actively use technology. Even getting students to create their own presentations is no longer really engaging students in using technology to push the edges of innovation.

In some ways, PowerPoint presentations have become the "five paragraph essay" of yesterday. Most of us who've taught English for more than fifteen years remember that monstrosity. The five-paragraph essay was an attempt to standardize writing in order help students mold their writing to fit standardized test scoring. Needless to say, as a teaching strategy, it was more about getting high scores on state writing tests than about students expressing original ideas and thoughts. It certainly wasn't about creativity and innovation. PowerPoint presentations as projects in many ways have replaced those five-paragraphs essays; they are simply as standardized way for students to present information.

Looking back to my own experiences with the old Macintosh SE lab, our excitement about learning was about possibility and promise. When you explore new technologies, you experiment and innovate; standardized products don't exist yet, because you are exploring the edges of what can be done. The technology itself does not cause that excitement; that excitement comes from what you can do with the technology. The exciting thing for me, and I suspect for students, is not the technology itself; it's the act of creation. With technology, we can create in new and unique ways. We can bring into existence things that never existed before using tools in ways they perhaps have never been used before.


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Oyster: E-Book Susbcription Service App for iOS and Android Devices---NetFlix of E-Books?

As an avid reader, last night, I downloaded Oyster, the subscription book service app to my iPad, just to check it out. There are many times when I read a book, I am not necessarily interested in purchasing a copy, but would still like to read it in e-book format.

Some are calling Oyster, the Netflix of e-books, and upon opening the app, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of books available. I even found the titles of several books on my reading list that I’ve been planning to read. Oyster, gives you access to book titles for a monthly subscription fee of $9.95. Right now, I am using a trial of the service, so I am personally undecided whether or not it’s worth my while to pay the month fee. It also remains to be seen whether the e-book service can provide access to an increasing number of titles, but the idea is appealing, especially to someone like me who enjoys access to a book any way I can get it.

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Oyster Interface
For more information about Oyster E-book subscription service, check out their web site. Apps are available for both iOS and Android devices.


Saturday, July 5, 2014

IA Writer: Interesting Writing App for Mac and iPad

IA Writer offers writers a minimalist environment for composition. As you write, you are not distracted by formats, fonts, and the normal trappings of a word processing program. You basically have a blank screen on which to type your thoughts and words. There's something interesting about writing in this manner. You aren't distracted by whether you should use this font or bullets. You simply type your text. I can see how composing in this environment would be attractive. IA Writer Pro is available for $19.99 for both the iPad application and the Mac application, which I have found equally useful.




Thursday, July 3, 2014

Sunrise Calendar App: Free App for Mac, Chrome Desktop, iOS or Android Devices

Sunrise Calendar App is an excellent way to gain access to your Google Calendars across multiple platforms. Recently, Sunrise became available as a stand-alone Mac App in addition to being available for iOS devices, Android devices, and Chrome. The best thing about Sunrise right now is that it’s free. It is easy to use and simply gives you easy access to your Google calendar. You can also connect some social media accounts such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as Evernote. It’s simple interface makes it an excellent choice for a Calendar app across all your devices.

Sunrise
Sunrise Mac App Interface

Here are some other interesting features of the Sunrise Calendar App.
  • Compatible with Google Calendar, iCloud and Exchange
  • Synchronizes in real time
  • Quick Add Event Feature
  • Reminders
  • Connect to multiple Google Calendars
  • Supports Mac notifications
  • Offline Mode
If you’re looking for a calendar app for your Mac, Desktop or handheld device, you will find Sunrise Calendar App's simplicity and ease of use reason enough to download it today. For more information about the Sunrise Apps, check out their web site (https://calendar.sunrise.am/).

Monday, June 30, 2014

Pause and Delete: Sometimes Our Best Response to Those Passionate Emails We Receive

“Pause before sending an email. What do I want to see come out of this communication? The other party to feel diminished or encouraged?” Sharon Salzberg, Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement, and Peace

Email has made it quite easy to speak your mind. How many of us are guilty of pounding out a scathing response to an email that we received from someone else who wrote from a moment of passion? Chances are, unless you’ve been asleep for the first decade of the 21st century, you have had your own experiences of composing and sending an email that did little to be helpful and much to be hurtful or detrimental to an already emotional situation. There’s something about email that seems to make it OK to speak to other people in ways that we would dare not speak to them in person.

This tendency to respond out of passion is all the more reason to “Pause” before sending that email when we find ourselves ruled by passion. A simple test I follow is this:

I ask myself: Will this email response be useful? And, as Sharon Salzberg indicates, “What do I want to see come out of this communication?” If the answer is harm to another person, then perhaps the delete button is the best option. If my email response will bring about harm to another, even in the spirit of revenge, then is it really expedient to send that message?

We don’t have to be discourteous and thoughtless with our messages. In fact, in our times, there’s just too much polarization and hate to go around already. Why would we choose to add more simply because it satisfies our own sense of revenge?

Today, don’t be afraid to “Pause” before sending that email-of-vengence.” If our message is harmful to others, no good can come from it. The delete button is sometimes the best option.