students


To filter or not to filter? That appears to be a big question for school divisions. My own opinion is that we don’t filter because I find it an insult that someone in an IT department is going to make teaching decisions for me. I think that my professional judgement and education should allow me some decision making power and the respect to know how to teach my students to be digitally responsible. If I don’t teach them who is going to?

Google Australia posted on their blog concerns about an Australian government proposal to implement filtering in all schools:
“Some limits, like child pornography, are obvious. No Australian wants that to be available – and we agree. Google, like many other Internet companies, has a global, all-product ban against child sexual abuse material and we filter out this content from our search results. But moving to a mandatory ISP filtering regime with a scope that goes well beyond such material is heavy handed and can raise genuine questions about restrictions on access to information. ”

Google Australia goes on to say “Our view is that online safety should focus on user education…” which are exactly my feelings. “The government has committed to important cybersafety education and engagement programs and yesterday announced additional measures that we welcome.”

On ConnectSafely’s blog Anne Collier states “Many young people are using ‘proxy servers’ to get round their schools’ internet security systems, ” the BBC reports, adding that students’ use of these free school-filtering workarounds is on the rise. “It sounds like an obscure, techy area of computing that only geeks would know about. But when we asked pupils in one secondary school classroom who had heard of proxy servers, every hand went up.” I started looking into proxy servers and found blog posts that instructed students how to bypass school filters and for a step by step  directions you only have to look as far as YouTube.

So, our school divisions set up all of these filters and students start a quest to find a way to work around them. It makes me wonder what exactly we’re teaching here. Collier goes on to say “Instead, schools should embrace and teach with these devices (cellphones etc.) and technologies so students can learn and practice wise use…That helps develop the 24/7 cognitive “filter” in their heads that improves with practice and is as flexible as their use of technology is…” And if all else fails you can insert images or graphics on your blogs and wikis to truly express how you feel.

On  Chris Matyszczyk’s blog Technically Incorrect he pokes fun at filters with this blog” School Web Filters Force Beaver into Hibernation.” Matyszczyk goes on to explain that the Canadian Natural History’s magazine “The Beaver” ,established in 1920, has
run into problems with school filters. “… web and spam filters, especially the robust ones employed by schools to keep their students from reading about naked bodies and manual exercise, are rejecting The Beaver’s hardy historical e-mails and other communications.” Now, doesn’t this seem silly?

On the blog Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning, Christine C. poses the question “Are school content filters keeping you and your students from learning and sharing information?” Christine discusses the problems that teachers and students are having when their access to social media is blocked. Christine also introduces ” Buffy Hamilton, a high school librarian in Canton, Ga., who argues that media specialists should try to overcome digital roadblocks by presenting reasoned and well-resourced arguments.” Hamilton shares her thoughts on Strategies for Fighting Internet Filtering on slideshare.

I think Will Richardson sums up my feelings about filtering in schools “It insults the profession to not at the very least provide desktop overrides for teachers when they bump up against a filtered site. Have a policy in place to deal with incidents where teachers make poor choices if that’s what the concern is.”

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This evening I decided to dedicate myself to playing in the sand. I’m messing with web 2.0 tools that I’ve never played with. The first one I’m trying is Sketchcast. I created a sketch of myself playing in the sand. It’s a bit frightening and I didn’t add my voice but you can get the idea. I could see it as a digital storytelling tool with younger students so that they draw the story that they are telling. Fun!

But, now for the difficult part. I wanted to embed the sketch on my blog. I’m now back having the same frustrations as I did trying to embed an Animoto video. Now, after much reading and searching I found the reason. WordPress uses Codex which is a “Function Reference/wp embed register handler” or in lay person’s terms it was designed to make it easier to put media content in your blog. But, the trick is that it has to be a site that it recognizes. No wonder this has been such a nuisance. “The oEmbed implementation in WordPress has discovery disabled. By default, you can only embed from websites that are listed on the internal whitelist. This is to prevent accidental embedding from malicious websites.”

“The easy embedding feature is mostly powered by oEmbed, a protocol for site A (such as your blog) to ask site B (such as YouTube) for the HTML needed to embed content (such as a video) from site B. oEmbed was designed to avoid having to copy and paste HTML from the site hosting the media you wish to embed. It supports videos, images, text, and more.”

Well, I don’t think it’s easier, I think it’s very limiting and makes some of my work impossible. Lesson learned. Check the editing functions of any blogs I use in the future!

Okay, now I’m back at it. Hmmmm….what to try out? Creaza looks interesting. There’s mindmapping, cartooning, video and audio editing. Cool! “Creaza offers you an integrated, web-based toolbox for creative work, both at school and in your free time.  You use the toolbox along with various fully developed thematic universes:  historical periods, fairy-tales, fantasy worlds, and current challenges, such as climate/environment.” However, it’s another site not supported by WordPress. Oh well, have a look at my creation:  http://www.creaza.com/members/classroomqueen. It’s pretty basic but then again I didn’t read the instructions.

I guess I could try the sites that are supported but maybe tomorrow because I’m down to 21% power and the red line is showing on my battery icon.

In case you were wondering, here are the supported sites.

“You can use all of these:

I wonder what I should try tomorrow?

I’ve spent about 45 minutes looking through all of my emails from my Diigo groups and checking out the links. There are links about math, science, language arts, story telling, research, use of technology and on and on. Subscribing to Diigo and joining a few Diigo groups allows me to keep up on current posting and new links. The members of the groups find the links and post the interesting ones to the Diigo group. I like to go through the links then organize the ones I want to keep on my wikis. I have wikis for all of the subject areas I teach and a wiki that I use for all of my professional links. Today I came across this post and thought it was very fitting considering that we’re all planning our major digital project for our class. As well, I’m on my school division’s technology committee and we’re planning our technology goals based on why we’re going to be using the technology. These are questions that we should all be asking ourselves as we embark on our technological journey.

“5 Questions for Planning Successful Web-Based Activities

1. What is the curriculum related purpose of the activity? The outcome or assessment should be aligned to your lesson objectives and standards.

2. Does the Internet enhance the activity? If the answer is no, find a more appropriate place to integrate the web.

3. How will students use the online resources? Once students locate information, they should be asked to apply, analyze, synthesize, evaluate, or create. The activity should require them to move to higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

4. Do students have necessary information analysis/information synthesis skills or am I including these in instruction? The project should not become simply an exercise in locating information. Students must have the necessary background knowledge and pre-requisite skills to complete higher level tasks or these must be included in instruction prior to the web-based learning activity.

5. Do I have the necessary time and support for the activity? Double your original time estimate and always have access to technical support to resolve problems efficiently.”

“Lists are based on those outlined in Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching by M. D. Roblyer.” source: http://unhub.com/rXKd

I just finished reading Ewan McIntosh’s blog “Personal projects are often worth more than professional ones. What’s stopping you?”.

The post describes how our personal projects outside of work can be the ones we value most.

It’s all too easy to relegate our personal projects to the bottom of the pile until “the day job” is complete. The result? We nearly always end up having to leave creative, fun, new projects behind in the interest of ticking someone else’s boxes, when those same personal projects could be the very innovation that make the difference.”

The post started me thinking about my personal projects and the satisfaction that I gain from them. For me the most satisfying projects are the ones I design that support the curriculum but also reflect who we are as people. The projects that I work on with my students are ones that have me interested and support my learning about the world. I like projects where there is a learning curve for myself and my students that challenges us to think in new ways.

Occasionally, these types of projects can be frustrating because the students’ learning curve isn’t as fast as mine or what seems obvious to me isn’t obvious to them. Sometimes I also forget that this year I’m teaching grade 5&6 and not 6&7. Believe me, there is a difference. My grade fives are not as independent as grade sevens and certainly aren’t as good problem solvers. I’m sure that by the time the school year is over there will be many changes in how they learn.

The projects I work on with my students are what makes my job interesting but the best part is when the students make the projects their own. Once the students take ownership of a project it takes on a new course and begins to reflect who each student is as a learner.

The blog post ends with a this great question “What’s your personal project, and what’s stopping you just getting on with it?”

So…what’s stopping you?

(more…)

We’ve just finished working on a collaborative project following the Iditarod Trail Dog Race. The project was tied to our Social Studies, Science and Language Arts curriculum. This is the second year of the collaboration with the project beginning in early February . Students worked with partners in classrooms in the United States and Canada. There were around 150 students working together in ten groups. The students worked on background assignments: history, weather, geography and musher information for four weeks prior to the race starting. Once the race began, the first Saturday in March, the students followed their mushers and wrote blog posts about their mushers progress in the race.

Last of the Iditarod <!– 03/18 –>
Lance Mackey won the Iditarod race. And he has a six to 8 houre lead.Our guy Mitch Seavey is at Shaktoolik and so far he is in 5th.

Iditarod <!– 03/10 –>
Today for the Iditarod my musher Ken Anderson and he is now in 18th place and he now has 15 dogs on his sled.He is at acheckpoint his average speed is 6.05.Stay tuned for more info.

The feedback from the project was great.

What I really liked in the 2009 Iditarod sled dog race was that I learned about Alaska. Did you know that the biggest volcano in Alaska is called Redoubt? Jeff King came in 12th place and has had better runs. What was your favourite part of the 2009 Iditarod sled dog race? 0kiwifruit0
In this year`s iditarod project I learned that you have to look after your dogs.Also you have to look after your sleds because when Dede broke her sled.I also learned that Lance Mackey won 3 times in a row. googlyeyes

In this years Iditarod project I learned about Balto.I also learned about the weather in Alaska.Then I learned about the trail in Alaska . I learned about that it takes a long time from Anchorage to Nome.This is what I learned about the IditarodBabyBash

What I learned from the Iditarod race is that you all was have to feed your dogs first before you eat. The musher get water by digging a hole in the snow so you keen put a barole in the hole. Then they put snow in the barole to make the snow melt and they made water. When the musher gets close the the other musher they have to say “trale”. When a musher sees a moose in there way they can kill the moose or scare it away. What I like about the Iditarod is the place’s that the musher are in because when a musher is in 40th place and two days go by and that musher is in 3th place it so neat how fast they can go.

what I learned about the iditarod

What I learned about the iditarod was that its not all about who comes in first. It’s out having fun,doing something you and old friends can do together. The iditarod is alot about sportsmanship. What thrilled me the most was how helpful the people of the iditarod are when something happens out on the trail. The most thrilling thing I saw on the iditarod was how everyone helped each other like when some one fell asleep on the trail when they were still moving and fell off there sled, they woke up when they hit but there dogs werent stopping, they ran to catch them but endead up catching a ride with another racer. This is what I learned about the iditarod.

I’m already looking forward to working on the project next year. I’m glad the students enjoyed working on and learning about the Iditarod Trail Dog Race.



I’ve been busy wrapping up the end of another school year and leaving for summer vacation. I returned home this past Saturday and again got busy finishing up a presentation for provincial science teachers. Interested science teachers in the province were attending a four day conference at The University of Regina. The province of Saskatchewan is in the process of piloting new middle years science units. I’ve been involved in the piloting for the past school year by attending meetings, discussing the curriculum with other science teachers and piloting new units. I’ve enjoyed the process and the opportunity to provide feedback from myself and my students as we work our way through the new curriculum.

This past Wednesday I presented technology links, activities, simulations, lesson and unit plans for two of the grade six units: Flight and  Space. I had organized my information on wikis using the draft curriculum and organizing the links based on the expected outcomes and their learning indicators. My first question  from my audience was “What’s a wiki?” At that point I had to do some back tracking and explain the Web 2.0 tools I was using. Throughout the presentation I was asked questions about how I had used technology and Web 2.0 tools to prepare my presentation. By the end of the session I had explained wikis, classblogmeister, delicious, diigo and twitter. I also discussed the power of networks particularly for the teachers who work in rural communities within the province. At one point one of the attendees asked the organizer if I could come back next year and present specifically on Web 2.0 tools and their application for science teachers.

My biggest worry when the questions starting coming was not to overwhelm anyone with the variety of networking tools I was using. I know that it can be a bit intimidating when you’re new to technology and someone is spouting off names and links when you’re just starting out. I wanted to assure everyone that a year and a half ago I had started with a class blog, six months later added wikis and continued from there as I had time. My advice was that the teachers choose one tool to begin with and slowly add to their repetoire. Many of the teachers were interested in using wikis to organize their unit plans so I left my email address and invited questions as they began their technology journey.

I hope I inspired some teachers to use Web 2.0 tools in their teaching even though that wasn’t my intent when I planned my presentation. I’ll post links to the new units with the technology resources as soon as the Ministry of Education approves the new curriculum.

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