Friday, January 18, 2008

Protecting the Student

The problem I am struggling with is how to allow the student to be able to have some global recognition, but way of blogs, pod/vod-casting, digital story telling, etc. while still allowing them to remain anonymous. It's not only a concern of mine, it is a big concern of their parents as well.

I see a few different problems that need to be solved. In some cases, the parents simply aren't familiar with some of the technologies that I want to introduce so there needs to be some training for them so they aren't acting out of unfounded fear. There is also the real problem of allowing the students to be online and post from the classroom, and the expectation of what they do at home with it as well.

I know I'll be holding some seminars with the parents to show them the tools, particularly some of the ones that I think they would have fun with at home (such as Storytelling Alice) but also some of the benefits of using the tools. Along with that, I will talk with them about how the students may use these tools at home.

The solution I've come up with for the anonymity situation is to have the students create identities for themselves. These alter-egos would be characters that they create, complete with nicknames, avatars, hobbies and a general backstory. Each time they are online, they will assume that identity. For example, one of my students designed an avatar that has a donut as the face, that character's name is D. Nut.

Some of this came out of the "DownsFM" podcast, I'm taking what they have for DJ names and tweeking it slightly. Although, their first venture will be a podcast, so I may just keep the "DJ" in front of it for now.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

My Philosophy

I think that every teacher needs to have a philosophy on technology integration into their classroom. Everything a teacher does is based on their own philosophy, whether it is using projects, a focus on writing, based in peer-to-peer discourse, or utilizing technology.

If your use of technology is simply because it is listed in the school goals, your outcome will be different than someone who uses the same technology as a teaching aid; and their outcome will be different than one who uses it as an added assessment tool. To illustrate, let me pose an example that doesn’t use modern technology.
Two identical classrooms are working on a small research project on biomes, one chooses deserts while another grasslands. Each student must mention 5 animals and 5 plants that can be found in their biome. Likewise, they must talk about the physical features of their biome. In one classroom, the teacher asks the students to write 2-3 paragraphs. In the second classroom the students can present it however they want. When it is time for the presentations, what do you think the difference will be? Let’s take it a step further: during the presentations, one class has the students go to the front of the room to present their project. The other class has the students go to the front and answer questions about their biome. Which class is likely to have the students read their project and which is more likely to have the students use their project as a reference and state their answer based on their knowledge?

It is similar with technology. While integrating technology by allowing the students to use a word processor instead of producing a handwritten paper is valuable, it isn’t likely to increase their learning. Technology can outright replace, or it can become an addition. It can do something for the student, or the student can do something using the technology.