Monday, January 31, 2011

Is the Internet Making us Smarter or Dumber?!?

So I have to say I will admit that students today don't seem to have the same level of focus as generations past.  I say don't seem because really I don't think any of us 'educated' graduates can really remember how distractable we were or how 'deeply' we thought about the topics presented to us.  I have a feeling that maybe we were just as distractable and shallow.
Regardless, I'm not sure if the internet can be blammed for loss of focus - there are numerous distractions imposed on students today including television, magasines, ipods, mp3's and of course the one that has always been around - teens tend to be distracted by each other.
In addition I would argue that students today have a far greater amount of cursury knowledge over their contemporaries.  Today if a student has their interest 'peaked' they can quickly locate information and move along to other topics that are related!  Thats not being distracted - that's connecting different topics and making real connections!  Regardless, even if students are not delving as deeply into content on the internet - then it's up to teachers to encourage and teach students to develope those skills.  If students can be taught to reflect on what they read AND they have the access to information that the internet provides then I think it's obvious that society will benefit.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Literacy and ICT

It is so important that teachers not only teach students how to get information from the internet, but we also have to train them to know how to pick out the truthful information, from the un-truthful.  With pure content at their figuretips people must understand how to access it, how to understand it, use it, analyse it, and then communicate what they think about it.
The power of social media and the internet is obvious today - as popular revolts/protests are breaking out across the middle east.  This has happened despite in some of these countries despite government attempts to limit the effects and openness of the internet.  The power to learn, communicate and share knowledge and ideas with ease will empower this generation and the ones that follow to a level that was impossible in the past.  This power comes with a possible negative if the message being sent (or the one that is being listened to) is untruthful or emphasises intolerance etc.  As teachers we can educate students to understand and use the interent, but also to avoid the potential dangers.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Should We? The Bird Thinks So...

Social Media sites are kinda the double edged sword for educators.  We have already covered using them as a personal learning tool - so I'll put that aside.  Using them with students in the classroom can be a bit more of an issue.  Not only is it difficult to control content when using some of the larger mass social media sites, but teachers have to be careful not to 'cross the line' with regards to their students.  Having them as 'friends' on Twitter or Facebook can open up several difficulties.  First of all teachers have to make sure that their own content is very professional - thats easy enough though just make a professional account and keep it clean.  More difficult is making sure that your students don't inadvertantly show 'you' the teacher incriminating content. Seeing a number of your students engaging in dangerous or illegal activities will not can put you in an almost impossible situation.  If you don't say anything you could be disciplined or fired depending on the circumstances, but if you 'rat' on your students you may loose their confidence and trust - not a situation you wanna be in.
It's unfortunate because using Twitter or other sites could be very possitive.  Honestly the suggestion to use sites such as classroom websites, blogs etc would be the safesty way of connecting with student and giving them a place to discuss or access resources online.  That being said it may still be possible to use means such as Twitter - maybe you can get students to set up their own 'school' Twitter accounts and encourage them to keep the content clean - you could even explain that you also have 'professional' accounts online and therefore role model how professionals use the internet responsibly.  You could also connect this with discussions on the longevity of what goes onto the internet (the fact that it never really ever leaves!) and awaken them to the fact that what they post today could come back and bite them tomorrow.


There is no doubt that Web Based Courses are going to be the way of the future.  I can completly understand their use in rural or remote schools around Manitoba (or the world for that matter).  They are simply too great for allowing schools to supplement the core courses with some of the topic courses that are not necissarily required to graduate.  Being able to include more student interest classes or advanced classes can only help increase the amount of students who are interested and engaged in school. 
I was also interested in the study that found that classes that had less face to face time and more internet time were more successful.  I would like to see this study because I have my doubts about its legitness (yes I know thats not really a word).  I can understand that intrapersonal learners would have success but extrapersonal leaners would be at a disadvantage - and I have a feeling that the majority of people who have used WBC's thus far are probably those that feel this type of learning would be appealing to, which of course would skew their stats a bit.  Regardless, they are hear to stay and I am sure I will be using it as a resource for myself.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Gap Minder World

Ok so this is probably one of my favorite sites that I have found on the internet.  The site has gathered information from a pile of countries over time.  The information is then displayed on a graph - so you can take two different categories and have them shown.  The information on the graph shown can be 'played' which will then graph the changes that occured over time.  Countries can also be selected and their statistics will be highlighted.  Honestly I'm having trouble describing the excellence of this site with words - so maybe an example is best.
The default graph on the site is called 'Health and Wealth' which graphs GDP and Life Expectancy of countries.  As an example for a history class studying World War I you could select Great Britian, Germany, Canada and France.  A teacher could then select 1900 as a starting point and 'play' the graph from that point.  When you hit 1914 the Life Expectancy for Great Britian, Germany and France will suddenly drop and then begin climbing again after the end of the war.  This is an excellent visual tool because it allows students to actually see the statistics that teachers often talk about.
Although this tool might be best for Social Studies teachers there are tons of different categories of statistics in areas such as environment, health, education, industry, economy etc. which means just about any teacher could find a use for this site.
Try it and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

John Evans

I enjoyed John's chat - especially when he just let us check out some of the tools he was talking about.  I think the idea of having a PLN is really important - there is no doubt that the Internet is giving everyone the ability to connect like never before, it almost renews the idea that the internet was supposed to fulfil - being a tool to connect professions from around the world to share and improve society - instead of the uglier, frivilous network that most people use it as.
Right now I doubt that the PLN network includes all (or even many) of the teachers out there but I completely believe that it will be the way of the future - as more and more of us 'computer' generation students become the mainstay of the teaching profession a larger and larger preportion of teachers will be invovled and the effectiveness of the PLN will increase.
All in all a pretty great presentation.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

bloggED Started

So this is my first post - just set up my blog.  I got my Twitter account up and running - seems alright so far and should be a useful tool if you find people who don't let you know everytime they get up for anything.  I hope it will be a useful tool for getting ideas or help from fellow teachers.  Only time will tell i guess.