Saturday, February 23, 2008

Journal # 3

Five Don’ts of Classroom Blogging by Julie Sturgeon
This article discusses some potential pitfalls of creating student blogs in the classroom. It lists five common problems with having a classroom work on blogs but maintains that the benefits are worth the problems. Brock Dubbels, a high school engineering teacher believes that even though there are potential roadblocks to blogging, the rewards in better writing skills for the students are worth the trouble. Included in these troubles are not setting up guidelines and objectives, which allows students to write anything they please in their blogs. The article also stresses the problems with confusing blogging with social networking, such as the tools MySpace and Facebook; problems associated using free blogging sites, and forcing a sequential style in blogs that may allow students most important accomplishments to get lost in their writings. The article concludes with an emphasis on the importance of teachers using blogs on their own, and the benefits this can produce for themselves as well as their students.


1. How do you encourage students who have little computer knowledge to use the blog?
The most important thing to remember when having students use any sort of technological tools in the classroom is that many of them may not have access to it outside of the classroom. As a teacher, you must allow students time to work on blogs in class. It may also be helpful to have limits on what students can put on their blogs (movies, music etc.) or do instructional lessons to help students who have little computer knowledge catch up to the other students. The students themselves could even teach these lessons.
2. How do you monitor blog sites if you don’t grade students for the quality of their work as the article recommends?
By making sure that the students are following through with their assignments, you should be able to grasp a little bit of the content of their work, but you don’t have to grade them on that per se. Also by having students sign a contract of conduct at the beginning of the assignment, clear expectations are established as to what is appropriate to post on their blogs.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Journal # 2

'Speaking Math: Using Chat in the Multicultural Math Classroom' by Janet Graham & Ted Hodgson

This article discusses the use of electronic discussion tools in math classes at Osbourn High School. The decision to use electronic tools was prompted by the common use of online chats observed in high school students. The authors chose to use both chat rooms and discussion forums for different programs. In the chats students answer questions related to topics in their textbooks using specific vocabulary. The authors were careful to take into consideration the economic resources of their students, allowing for plenty of time for the students to use the classroom computers during school hours.
One of the positive outcomes that the students have noticed is that the online forum allows for non-native English speakers to answer the questions in an environment that moves at their own pace. They have also found that groups may identify  with their cultural similarities online or discover interests in other cultures through the forum. 
The article ends by explaining that this type of chat and forums can be used for other educational disciplines, citing examples for both history and science classes. 
1. If students make mistakes when answering the questions, can this lead to confusion of the subject for the students participating in the forum?
The dialogue created by these chats seems to be on the whole beneficial, but it is very unlikely that the teachers will be able to monitor the chats in real time. If the students get stuck on a problem or are discussing false information without knowing it, it does seem possible that this could create problems for them to re-learn the correct information later. 

2. Do these types of forums promote acceptance of different cultures or segregation among students?
Although the authors maintain that the forums promote diversity, they also say that different cultural groups often seek each other out in the forums, speaking native languages etc. While there is value in allowing an educational space where cultures are respected, I am not certain that the forums don't create segregation among students if they cannot all participate equally. 

Friday, February 8, 2008

Journal #1

"Social Networking for the K-12 Set" by Jim Klein

This article discusses the social networking site created for the Saugus Unified School District. It begins with an overview of the needs for networks similar to the one they created as well as the limits of existing, public sites. The goals of the project were to create a community in which students and teachers could share information, learn and grow in an open, but safe environment. Of particular concern in the creation of the network was the desire to allow open access among community members while still maintaining accountability for content and relevance. The designers were able to do this by creating a diverse number of forums with varying degrees of access based on the users. For example, teachers have more control over content and access to areas on the network that students do not.

The network has two communities, one for teachers to post announcements, podcasts, lesson plans etc and the second a student community that allows children of all ages to share information and collaborate with other children, not only in their district but globally. The author comments on the sense of community that is fostered between teachers, parents and students. He also mentions the benefits of the user friendly interface they were able to create. The designers have effectively created a system that is user friendly and encourages people to use tools of technology that they may not have thought they were capable of using before.
The article concludes with some advice for other districts interested in creating their own social network including a list of relevant web resources.

1. What problems may the movement towards social networking create for students who have few technological resources outside the classroom?
-- If a district moves towards creating an online community it needs to take into account the resources that exist beyond the school walls. It is possible that such a move could create an education gap between students whose families embrace the new system and those who don’t or can’t. Not only must the district take into account the financial limitations in their communities; they must also account for cultural differences that may preclude a use of technological resources. I was struck by the part of the article that mentioned having students download podcasted lesson plans to personal ipods as an example of some pretty lofty financial expectations for students and families.

2. How can social networking benefit parent and teacher communications?
-- Assuming that both parents and teachers have access to the technology necessary to use an online network, the system can be a very effective way for both groups to communicate about students. If a teacher creates a public newsletter or a blog, they can present a myriad of information that may be of interest to parents without having to contact them one-on-one. Also, an online forum may allow for a more honest and open dialogue between teachers and parents as it can foster a more relaxed and casual environment than a traditional parent/teacher conference.