Saturday, July 23, 2011

2020 Vision ?!?!

I can hardly believe that the year 2020 is about 8.5 years away.  Yet to students, the year 2020 seems very futuristic and would be a time we are taken over by aliens or some kind of being from another planet.  As I sit here thinking about the future, all I can think about is how kids minds automatically go beyond with their futuristic thinking and how creative and positive their outlooks are.  To the elementary student 8.5 ears away seems eons away and cars will be flying by then!  Yet, my thoughts don’t foresee much of a change in the next 9 years (approximately).  I don’t have a negative outlook, but am not sure that much will be different by 2020.  9 years ago, I was finishing my student teaching and beginning the adventure as a public school teacher in Pennsylvania. As I look back at the last years I’ve been teaching not a lot has changed but a lot of changes have been talked about.  Constantly great changes are discussed and anticipated but funding usually creates an obstacle for having those changes or implementations actually occur.  I am sure that many districts across the state and country who had the same goals and visions as my district over the past 9 years were able to see newer technologies and ideas implemented in their district, so change is apparent and will occur in 9 years, but I highly doubt equally within all types of school districts.  
I have seen programs come and go across the curriculums throughout the years and I predict that will continue to occur in the year 2020.  What I hope will happen is that there will be less emphasis on standardized testing (because all kids will be 100% proficient as predicted with the No Child Left Behind Act) and more of an emphasis on increasing the technological abilities and knowledge of each child.  I believe that in the year 2020, education will have more of a virtual base than present.  Students and teachers will still be in the traditional classroom but it will be filled with more technology equipment than now.  Students and teachers will have the opportunity to collaborate with other students and teachers in various areas of the state, country and world on a regular basis.  This push and increase in technology equipment will aid in keeping kids actively engaged both independently and collaboratively.  Since these kids are the generation of the digital age, they need to be fluent/ proficient with the computer, web applications, software, etc because those are real world applications that every child needs while in school.  
I truly have high hopes that the future is filled with rich technological advances in the public school system.  But, my fear is that although these advances are warranted and much needed by teachers and students, will there be funding to support it?  The optimist in me assumes that the financial crisis and teacher lay-offs and programs cuts that we experiences this year will be out of our minds and rectified (but not forgotten) by the year 2020. I want to say that administration and government will have joined forces and realized that funding in public schools is important and what’s good for kids.  But, the realist in me, assumes that we will still be facing the financial problems and lack of money when it comes to technology, even though that is the same area that administration is constantly pushing for increase usage of.  
One area that I think will improve within the next nine years will be networking and security parameters, since the use of technology in a school will be more of a one-on-one setting.  According to Dave Evans, a Chief Futurist, “ The Internet will evolve to perform instantaneous communication, regardless of distance.”  Network capacity will increase and cost will decrease.  But, will privacy and safety concerns increase or decrease? Privacy and safety is the biggest concern for future Internet usage in a classroom.  As an elementary teacher, my concern is heightened for the younger aged child that is unaware of cyber threats.  Imagine the teacher dealing with cyber bullying, online predators and everyday “real-life” classroom issues all at the same time, truly a scary thought! Securities are placed on laptops but kids are very technologically savvy without proper schooling making it a constant battle to keep everyone “cyber safe.”  The technology team is constantly in a proactive state trying to be one step ahead from the older student who manages to bypass firewall after firewall.  Microsoft unveiled the second “test version” of its next Web browser, Internet Explorer 10, which will accompany the new Windows 8 operating system. Internet Explorer 10 will add some security options for Web applications and consumer privacy.  According to a Microsoft Study, Internet Explorer 9: Future of the Web, “45% of respondents think there will be no such thing as privacy online, making it clear that more and more people are becoming very concerned about online tracking and other intrusions on their privacy.”
Most of the stuff that will be around in 2020 is going to come from the minds of kids that are now somewhere between 7-14 years old.  And, honestly they don’t even know what those ideas are going to be, but view the current technologies as stepping stones for better advancements. These digital aged children are not afraid to ask “why not” where as the current generation asks “why.” Many experienced adults are still catching up with the current technologies, let alone thinking about what could be next.  
The 2020 paperless educational classroom will have kids using handhelds and laptops.  Kids won’t need lockers anymore for books, but for their charging accessories. Additional communication with teachers outside the school day will occur with text messaging.  Summer and additional elective classes will be offered on an online basis only.  Students who want to earn college credits at the high school level will be able to take online classes while in their respective high school buildings. From the outside, the buildings will look the same to parents, grandparents, and outsiders, but inside the way kids are learning will be completely different than when they were in school.  Yet, the teaching of social skills, civic responsibilities, respect, community responsibilities, and duties will remain the same.  

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Web Application- Google Earth

In my classroom, I would utilize the web application, Google Earth.  I think Google Earth is a great tool to integrate in Social Studies or anywhere across the curriculum.  I would use Google Earth in Social Studies to correlate with my lessons on maps and globes.  One way to use this is individually is to have the students find their house using Google Earth and have them complete a worksheet where they have to find either a landmark, street etc North, South, East and West of their house to assess their ability to use cardinal directions.  As a whole group, I could use this application when we deal with stories that are set in other parts of the world.  I could open up Google Earth and show the kids on the globe exactly where the location is and then zoom in to show the students what that particular area looks like.  This application also could be used with lessons on the solar system/outer space.  Truly, this is an extremely valuable classroom tool! Finally, the best part is that Google Earth is a free download.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Paperless Spaces

After reading the article by Abigail Beshkin on Columbia University's first paperless undergraduate class I was completely intrigued and wished that opportunities like that were around when I was going for my undergraduate degree.  I thought it offers a whole new world of learning for the students, and not to mention the cost savings on textbook materials.  Even as I continue my education post masters, I am still plagued by textbook costs!  I truly have wondered why all the online classes I have taken still require textbooks?? In an online class, I would have thought that using textbooks would have decreased but in the last 3 years, I haven't seen a change yet but Columbia University posted this article in 2000, 11 years ago...
I do not think that the role of the teacher would change much in a paperless classroom, teachers are becoming more of facilitators and this would just increase the push of more of a passive teaching role.  I think this would encourage more of an inquiry based learning experience will all the tools at the fingertips of the students to find the answers to their inquiries.  Yet, I do not foresee this as beneficial in the elementary levels, but most definitely at the high school and possibly older middle school aged classrooms. The elementary classroom could use it as supplemental readings for the students, but many still struggle with reading off a computer screen and using the tools that are being taught for going back into the text to highlight what is essential to the reading.  Although, at an older age they could be taught how to highlight on screen.  Overall, I think it would be a positive touch to the non traditional digital aged Web 2.0 classroom!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Big Shift 1: Open Content

This shift focuses on the fact that students can gain access to a wealth of information outside the standard classroom textbook.  Information can be found anywhere on the web from google to wikipedia and this is causing teachers and open-source-type classrooms  to create their own textbooks and curriculum.  Although I do not create my own textbooks or curriculum, I use a vast amount of outside resources in everyday teaching from search engines to discovery education to having kids research on their own in the computer lab.  This open shift allows for more of an independent ownership of work that the child is creating and learning.  This also promotes self teaching rather than a dictating/drilling type learning with multiple sharing opportunities where kids teach kids instead of the teacher always teaching the kids.  These technologies are what allow teachers to expand and bring the real world to the classroom without every leaving the school.  Many times what the students experience with these technologies in the classroom are the only times that they are able to have this exposure.  Every child deserves the opportunity to see what is out there in order to create a goal for what to strive for when they are in the real world living and using these technologies that are being open to them in any level classroom.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Stop the Homework Complaints!

Parents and students need to stop complaining about homework!  Some parents claim that too much homework takes away from family time, play time, sports and other extracurricular activities.  There's also that parent perspective that suggests homework is too much like "work" and kids need time to "play" and ample "downtime" after their "job" aka school.  I think that homework is essential for kids and imperative in furthering their learning and education.  Sports require a lot of work with training, practice, competition which is just as taxing on the child as homework.  Just as kids and parents find fulfillment in practicing for their extracurricular activity, they can find the same in homework.  What is going to happen when these kids get to college where there is constant homework?  There are parents, school board members, administrators, and students that are advocating for homework cutbacks, but is that in the best interest for the learner?
Students who have not developed the right attitude towards homework as a means of learning, self-development, and/or intellectual tools will be lost in college.  Too many times students are able to coast through high school on their raw ability without ever developing strong study skills ultimately not reaching their full potential through homework and other outside assignments.  Shock is the best description for these kids when they find themselves overwhelmed by heaps of work in college that they should have been prepared for during their K-12 education.  "The most direct positive effect of homework is that it can improve retention and understanding. More indirectly, homework can improve students' study skills and attitudes toward school, and teach students that learning can take place anywhere, not just in school buildings. The nonacademic benefits of homework include fostering independence and responsibility. Finally, homework can involve parents in the school process, enhancing their appreciation of education, and allowing them to express positive attitudes toward the value of school success." (
Reasonable homework assignments in the lower grades is the beginning of appropriate preparation for the more rigorous and time-consuming assignments that lie ahead in high school and eventually college. Homework needs to have a purpose and fit in the larger scheme of learning.  But, does homework need to remain traditional, or can it be combined with more 21st century (web 2.0 ) assignments such as reflecting in blog posts or contributing on wikis?
Many government leaders are concerned with the quality of education in the US and how achievement in education will affect and maintain a quality workforce.  Good work habits can be built from intelligent and creative homework assignments.  Being able to have ownership of their work will build a child's self confidence in their academic abilities which will translate into success in college and the workforce.  In conclusion, I feel that the as long as the homework is "meaningful" and time appropriate it is a crucial component in everyday life long learning.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


After reading the wiki on connectivism by Group D, I completely agree with the points that they made throughout their wiki.  They did a great job of showcasing their information through visual aids and video. Those extra components helped to clarify their viewpoint on connectivism and how important it is for a student to survive and flourish in this digital age.  Group D stated, " the learner must make a specific topic their reality," what common sense! Any student learns better when they can make a connection to a topic based around their own world.  These connections are brought about through the (internet) Web and continuously used as engagement from the teacher to the student.  Teachers know that keeping kids engaged is a difficult task and with the rise of the digital age, it gives teachers a means to help students grow while enjoying what and how they are learning.  But overall, is connectivism a learning theory? What a great discussion starter.....

Friday, July 8, 2011


I have used skype many times to stay connected with my family in California. It is such a great interactive tool.  My grandparents love when I connect skype with them so they can see their grandchildren in California since they aren’t able to travel anymore.  It is much more convenient than text talking, plus it has a more personal feel. 
I have always thought that it would be a great experience for kids to skype with other students in different parts of the US and the world, but skype is another great web 2.0 tool that is blocked in my district.  A couple years ago, I wanted to skype with the class we were writing pen pals letters with but we couldn't bypass the firewalls.  I would hope that at one point, our district will unblock it on teacher computers so we could use skype as a whole class through the smartboard/projector at least.
Skype could also be used in the classroom to have video chats with authors.  At the higher levels, teachers could use skype hours once a week or only around exam time for additional support instead of having kids stay after school. And, the best part about Skype is that it’s FREE! Learning is no longer traditional, and the tools we use shouldn't be either.  

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Podcasts in the Classroom

The podcast that I would use in my classroom is one made about Amelia Bedelia.
This podcast was made by 2nd graders using a smartboard and an interactive book read aloud version of an Amelia Bedelia story.  The 2nd graders did a wonderful job of manipulating the smartboard as well as speaking clearly for the camera/microphone.
I would use this podcast in my classroom during the time that I am reading Amelia Bedelia stories which is a part of our language arts curriculum.  This could be used as an extension activity to culminate their learnings of an Amelia Bedelia story.  It is a great way to bring the story to life. Ideally I would like to contact the teacher that created this and see if I could use her smartboard story template in my classroom to bring her podcast to life in my classroom.  If that is not possible, after showing the podcast, we would create our own podcast of each student reading a page from the class chosen favorite Amelia Bedelia story.