Friday, June 24, 2011

Second Life or Get a Life?

I was genuinely confused when I lived my Second Life for the first time. What is so intriguing about creating an avatar in a virtual world where a person can be themselves or pretend to be someone else? It actually sounded a little creepy. It was very overwhelmed gazing at the opening map of places/islands/cities/ etc. to venture to. I took a few minutes to read through the controls and the different options. I eventually picked something that aligned with my interests- the International Society for Technology in Education. When I entered the ISTE island the first thing I experienced was a sense of calm and relaxation. I saw a bunch of pine trees, some bridges and the what looked like the ocean in the background. The weather looked sunny and felt like it was in the low to mid 70′s (my guess…). I noticed a few people standing around (literally err virtually should I say?) and I tried to strike up a conversation but they seemed preoccupied and I didn’t want to bother them so I moved on. I realized I had the freedom to roam anywhere in the ISTE island, but I wanted to have a birds-eye view of the layout and venues so the first thing I did was hold down the function key (fn) and press the up arrow and started lifting straight up to get an aerial view of the island. From the air I some what looked like cabanas or huts and flew to them. When I set myself down (function key + down arrow) I saw the booths were for bloggers (‘bloggers hut’) and podcasters (podcasters place). I was impressed with the setup, layout and overall aesthetics of the rooms. Podcasters Place has all types of icons, images and even had a desk with laptop and all the podcasting equipment you need! Bloggers hut had links to blogs you could touch and then go to, a list of people blogging about ISTE, and areas to sit and ‘work.’ It was cool stepping out of huts and being able to go down to the ocean to relax. I felt like I was ‘sharpening the saw‘(as Stephen Covey would say of his 7th Habit of Highly Effective People) gazing at the sky and feeling a deep sense of calm. Afterwards I continued around the island before finally unplugging. When I unplugged I was beginning to understand how this ‘whole virtual world thing’ could be popular both from an educational perspective and a relaxation perspective. I felt relaxed from going to the ocean and yet also felt inspired to blog after reading some of the blogposts at bloggers hut!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Visual Learning Tools


For generation ‘X’ educators teaching students of the net generation, visual learning has a very different connotation. Granted visual learning has been around since the stone age. From caveman using sticks to draw pictures in the sand to good old-fashioned 20th century (21st century?) chalk and blackboard. But visual learning has changed. Wikipedia defines visual literacy in education as “a student’s ability to comprehend, make meaning of, and communicate through visual means, usually in the form of images or multimedia” The last word really help us understand the 21st Century understanding of visual literacy multimedia. Drawings and pictures are definitely one aspect to which sites such as www.flickr.com and  tooondoo.com will testify. However the multimedia aspect really takes learning to the next level.
Multimedia really captures the attention of auditory or visual learners and is second nature to most students who have already embraced it outside the classroom. For formal educators multimedia tools can be incorporated into daily lessons, units and used as formative or summative assessments. When I use multimedia for assessments I try to differentiate the tools students use to align with their abilities. For example some students are artistic and like to draw comic cells or detailed picture scenes. other students like to produce, act and edit film. They have their choice. When engaging students through a multimedia platform educators should prep the students so they understand the goals of viewing the multimedia. My students know the multimedia I use is a means to the end-  The end being the student’s understanding and comprehension of the materials learned through the use of multimedia.
In terms of a specific multimedia for teachers, I can’t stress how effective YouTube is for my classes. After pre-screening and approving of them, YouTube clips are a great way to captivate students and help them really grasp the essential question(s) posed. I recently created a smartboard presentation with the goal of students understanding the importance of border placements among countries. The lesson began with a link I had embedded to a clip discussing border placements in the Middle East (Israel’s borders in particular). I then played YouTube clips showing footage of different cities living on/near borders and how they were affected by borders being redistributed. The videos helped students to wrestle with and grasp the concepts of how border placements affect people, economies, etc. in the 21st Century- Words alone would not have produced the same impact.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Soical Networking in Education

When first hearing of it some people have difficulty appreciating how social networking platforms can be used in more ways than posting you just ‘brushed your teeth with new whitener’ or ‘ going to DSW to get some new uggs’. For business people social networking are powerful marketing and connecting vehicles. In the education world social networking can be summed up in two-words: Think-Tank.

For educators social networking is like being inside a giant global think-tank. You have educators you can learn from and share with and always leave conversations or reading posts with ideas bouncing around in your mind. The ability to connect with other professional educators (and yes it does take time to sift through the ‘personalities’ one comes across while building a viable, solid personal learning network) in the same or similar field leaves you with a very empowering feeling. Social networking platforms let educators share and exchange a wellspring of knowledge be it through videos or links to other websites or online materials. I will come across a new tool or idea or website someone suggests and if it is something that fits my needs I will save, mail or bookmark it for later. Educators should consider sites such as http://edupln.ning.com/, http://www.classroom20.com/ and http://yu20.org/ to get started in social networking.

For students social networking plays a major role in their lives outside of school. Incorporating social network platforms such as Edmodo in the classroom can positively affect how students think relate and interact with each other in platform with which they are already accustomed. Platforms like Edmodo have strict privacy and filter settings to help ensure the safety and security for the students and school. When taught properly, students also learn digital citizenship and proper etiquette which will hopefully impact their decision-making on social networks outside the classroom as well. Students enjoy the feeling of connectedness and having their voice heard by their peers through their writing or video posts. With the future of education going digital (Florida Dept. of Education will be mandating its’ public schools go completely digital in the classroom, textbooks and all, by 2015) using social networking platforms in the classroom may seem bold right now but will eventually be the norm for schools.