Sunday, January 27, 2013

Blog Assignment #2

Catherine Warren

Did You Know? 3.0 - A John Strange 2012 Version Revised Sept 2012    

No, I did not know.  I did not know India has more K-12 honors students than all of the K-12 students in the United States.  I did not know so much of the Chinese population is learning English to the point that they will outnumber other English speaking nations.  I did not know the top jobs 10 years from now do not exist yet and will use technologies that have not yet been invented.  I did not know the statistics regarding the use of YouTube, Google Search, SMS messages, nor regarding the ownership of computers in homes and cell phones.  The initial response is to think, "Wow," or "Interesting," or "Hhmm."  But the greater question is what does all this mean?  What does this mean not only locally but globally?  Whether it is to admire or criticize, imitate or destroy, other nations are continually looking at America.  Sadly most Americans don't know their own current events, but probably know who sang on American Idol this week.

What is my role in preparing students for the jobs of 2022 or 2023?  Regardless of what future job a student gets, the student must be able to communicate well, read and write, problem solve, and be productive.  The student must have good analytical and critical thinking skills.  If the person works for someone else, the person must be profitable to the company or the company will hire someone else who is.  Businesses are in business to make money, not just pay salaries and wages.

The skills I mentioned will be necessary for the jobs I believe will still exist in 10 years.  Someone must grow our food, repair our vehicles, build our roads and homes and commercial buildings. Someone must provide medical care for us and our pets.  Someone must write, sing, dance, act, preach, fish, manufacture, paint, design, govern, pilot, drive.  Regarding jobs that do not exist yet, students must possess skills necessary to fulfill those jobs.  Those same skills will apply, along with flexibility and ability to adapt well to change.  And no, I am not ready to be an educator.  I am still being educated on educating.

Mr. Winkle Wakes film

Mathew Needleman created, on the surface, a very cute video obviously inspired by Rip Van Winkle. Mr. Winkle is just so cute.  He awakens after sleeping for 100 years.  He sees too much change.  He sees technology he never dreamed of.  Pun intended.  He feels sick and goes to the hospital only to be surrounded by more of these strange machines making unfamiliar sounds.  Thinking he could not get well in this kind of hospital, he left and walked on and on.  He saw a school and went inside.  It was instantly familiar with teachers lecturing all day long and students taking notes.  There was "no intrusion from the outside world."  But there was a dusty computer sitting in the back of the room. He found it "comforting to know even after 100 years some things still stay the same way."

Rather than suddenly waking up like Mr. Winkle, I find my eyes gradually adjusting to the bright light. What I struggle with is reconciling learning technology but not just for the sake of learning it, but actually using it to perform a worthwhile task.  If I learn all the working parts of my oven but never use it to actually bake some food, who cares?  Likewise, I do not want to be like Mr. Winkle and run away from technology altogether because of discomfort, fear, or unfamiliarity.

Sir Ken Robinson

Sir Ken Robinson is my kind of public speaker.  He mixes humor, wit, and insight.  He thoroughly held my attention.  I would like to explore more of his speeches.  His main argument is that public education systems are killing our children's creativity.  Around the world, Arts Education is at the bottom of the list.  I am all for creativity however, for example, 2 + 2 will always equal 4.  Any other answer is just plain wrong.  Which leads into Sir Robinson's point that being wrong is not the same thing as being creative.  Being wrong is being wrong as in my simple addition example with any answer than 4.  However, he says, "If you are not prepared to be wrong you will not come up with anything original."  Which leads to the question of the definition and necessity of creativity.It is common to only think of creativity as pertaining to the Arts.  However, engineering, designing, and inventing require creativity.

Sir Robinson says that the point of public education is to produce university professors.  "They are the people that come out on the top.  We shouldn't hold them up to the high water mark of all human achievement.  They're just a form of life."  Personally, I think Christian missionaries are an example of high human achievement.  I consider hospice caregivers another example.  Filling our brains so we become human encyclopedias has no value if knowledge is the only goal.  As I stated earlier, we will always need farmers, mechanics, builders, hair stylists, etc.  Every student is not college material and every career does not require college experience.  I know small business owners who never went to college, and after paying their taxes, still make a ton more money than a college graduates.  But there again, money is also not the high water mark of all human achievement.  Noteable, these same business owners have had to be self educators and took the initiative to find out what is necessary to be successful.

Regarding schools, the future, and change, I know change is inevitable.  The question is how quickly and what type of change will or should occur?  Many schools already use so much technology. Having computers in every classroom is no surprise nowadays.  The current problem I am aware of is abuse of cell phones by students.  They text, use social media, and cheat during school hours.  The floodgates are open.

Perhaps on the elementary level, the level I am interested in teaching, cell phones are not as much an issue.  Preparing lessons and teaching lessons, with a SmartBoard or a chalk board, do not intimidate me in the least.  I continually worry as I visualize bad behavior.  I don't know how technology will help this other than to hope it will engage the students so there will be less time or opportunity to misbehave.  We know that during Mr. Winkle's visit to the school, he observed lectures and note taking all day, but we do not know if the students misbehaved.  Maybe they were too bored to consider misbehaving.


Pinterest could be very useful as a teacher because of the ability to save things to my "board." Pinterest is a great way to organize, share, and search for anything.  I chose to follow Charity Preston's Technology board.  At the bottom of her page, she has free SmartBoard files.  That immediately caught my eye.  I am of the mindset that I do not want to reinvent the wheel, so borrowing a wheel is a great option.  By having a SmartBoard in the classroom, Pinterest could be accessed for the whole class to see.  From there videos, activities, and charts can be used.

While signing up for Pinterest for this assignment, I found the procedure is different from just a few months ago.  It offered a lot more choice up front rather to the user, rather than Pinterest randomly assigning me boards to follow which I then had to frustratedly "unfollow. " It seems Pinterest has already improved which is a credit to this quickly changing world of technology.

Project #2-Wordle

Can you read my Wordle?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Blog Assignment #1

About Me

I have lived in the Mobile area all of my life.  I graduated from Baker High School in 1991.  I came to USA that Fall for my first and only quarter in the olden days when the quarter system was in use. I was not college material at the time.  In the summer of 2006 I restarted my college career.  By taking only one or two classes at a time, I have been on a long but steady road to maybe becoming a teacher when I grow up.  I have been married for twenty years.  I have three children:  a freshman in college, a ninth grader, and a first grader.  

I want to enter the field of education because I love what I call "light bulb moments".  I love the look on a child's face when something clicks in his or her mind.  The other reasons I will list may seem very idealistic and maybe too simplistic.  I want to help students achieve and be successful.  I want their horizons broadened.  I want them to go further than they thought they would.  I want the struggling reader to break through and love to read day and night.  I want math to appear like solving fun puzzles rather than drudgery.  I want students to enjoy the lasting satisfaction of learning rather than the momentary satisfaction of earning a piece of candy.  In a nutshell:  I want to change the world.

One of my passions is traveling.  Traveling takes time and money.  Traveling must be worked around school, work, and the daily grind of laundry.  The next best thing is reading books, though I don't have much time to read a really good book right now.  I watch entirely too much TV.  I also love to sing though I have a mediocre voice.  It's just plain fun.

Future Classroom

As I think about my future classroom, the picture is a little hazy in my mind.  I expect I will learn a lot more about methods as my own college courses progress.  I want to teach fourth or fifth grade or even sixth grade math all day at a middle school.  However for this reflection, I am focusing on fourth or fifth graders.  I want to keep and maintain their attention.  I want the students to expect the unexpected.  My personal teaching style is incorporating lecture with discussion followed by hands on experience.  I know I will have to be flexible and be able to assess what actually works versus what a lesson plan says.

In a class size of 25+ students, I will have to constantly be aware of the array of learning styles and ability of the students.  There are always the high, middle, and low students, and possibly special needs students contained in the class.  Natural leaders will emerge. There will also be those that are shy or content to not be as verbal.  Regardless of these things, I worry most about behavior problems.  Their home lives may not be so great or they may have medical issues.  Social dynamics between the students will be a factor.  Fourth and fifth graders should no longer need help tying their shoes or sounding out words, but they have other needs.  I want them all to develop skills to assess information, solve problems, and achieve success because of and despite all of these factors.  

I expect to use various tools in the classroom.  Of course the basics are pens, pencils, paper, and textbooks.  I know art is a valuable subject to integrate into other subjects so I plan on having many art supplies and music.  I want to have a quality classroom library while also making use of the school library.  For different units of study, I want to bring items for hands on demonstration. Concerning technology, I would love to use a Smart Board well while also allowing students to use classroom computers to enhance learning.  

I want my classroom to be the place my students will enjoy entering every day rather than dread.  I want my classroom to be a place of safety, positivity, stimulation, and achievement.  While I am not a sports fan, I may use a sports theme for decorating because I want my students to have the attitude that we are all on the same team.  

Time Management

I would describe Dr. Randy Pausch's discussion on Time Management to be catchy and concise. He said two real problems of life are stress and procrastination with procrastination being the main one we need to get a handle on.  That is incredibly true for me in so many areas of my life. Because I stress, I procrastinate.  And procrastinators are very good at avoidance, excuses, and blame.  I succeed when I buckle down and quote Nike:  Just do it.

Dr. Pausch's advice to evaluate why is very useful.  Doing the right things and focusing on them will eliminate wasted time on things that don't matter.  I like his idea of planning on multiple levels:  by the day, week, and semester.  This seems a lot more manageable than one giant plan, which leads into his idea of breaking a plan into small steps.  Even the simple task of preparing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is comprised of small steps.  

Before this assignment, I had no idea who Randy Pausch was.  A quick Internet search revealed that sadly he died at an extremely early age of pancreatic cancer.  His book of lectures and speeches, The Last Lecture, has been a New York Times bestseller.