Saturday, April 19, 2008

Journal # 10

Disabled Bodies, Able Minds: Giving Voice, Movement and Independence to the Physically Challenged. By Diane Curtis. 2/2/2005

This article discusses some of the technological equipment that is available to handicapped students to enable them to learn, communicate and participate in outside activities at school. It profiles students using technology including computers, cell phones, joysticks etc. and how these new technologies allow the students to participate more fully in their educational experiences and gain independence both in schools and in their daily lives.
There are many efforts out there to assist with acquiring and technologies for students with disabilities including the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Interworking and Technology,) who work to make sure that all students are actively engaged in their education and giving them more independence in life.

1. Who foots the bill for these new technologies?
It is important that there are organizations like DO-IT who can help provide some of these computers and other technological devices, otherwise it seems likely that schools and districts will allow this to move to the back-burner especially in the wake of the economy and the school budget crisis. I am also pretty certain that for parents who do not have students who need assistive technologies, there is little incentive to push school districts into acquiring the necessary tools.

2. What happens when students who have access to these technological tools through the school systems graduate?
Are there any measures in place for these students once they age out of the standard educational system? It seems unfair that a student who has been able to communicate through software provided by the school system will suddenly have no way of communicating because he can’t afford the technology on his own.

Journal # 9

Are Schools Inhibiting 21st Century Learning? By David Nagal. THE Journal, April 2008.

This article discusses the Speak Up survey relating to technology. Speak Up surveys are conducted every year to assess current educational issues and are made to be shared with policy makers in the state and the nation. This survey interviewed students, teachers, administrators and parents about the use of technology in the classroom. The idea that students often know more about emerging technologies while teachers and administrators are often behind the curve is addressed, as is the benefits of technology in the classroom. One of the problems the survey found is that students often feel that schools hold their technological use back by limiting the use of technological tools and the ways that they are able to use.
1. How do students who do not have access to this technology come into play?
Although the survey conveys the frustration of students who are not able to use their own equipment, or who are limited by the amount of time they can access technology in the classroom. It does not address how using personal technology may negatively impact students who do not have access to technological tools outside of the classroom. The survey did find out that only one third of students have access to a laptop outside of school.

2. How do you give students access to the internet in the classroom and keep them on task?
One of the problems that students have, according to the survey is that they are limited in their use of technology and how they can use it. One of the problems with having students using the internet is keeping them on task, and while I think it is important to allow students to explore technology on their own, especially if the students don’t have access to the internet outside of the classroom, it is important to make sure that they are doing things online that are educational and appropriate.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Journal # 8:Google Earth

Learning from Classroom 2.0
Journal # 8: Google Earth
Google Earth is a virtual mapping program that maps the earth using three different tools: satellite imagery, aerial photography and GIS 3D globe. The program, which is free to download at, allows people to search for addresses, buildings and landmarks. It also allows people to see 3-D terrain and buildings and to see things in space. I downloaded the software and it is really awesome! Basically the program allows you to travel around the world, or in outer space seeing things how they really look in 3D.
The Classroom 2.0 thread that I read about discussed some of the things that you could do with the Google Earth software. The original post was from a teacher who was currently using the software in his math class to map distances and had done a few other projects with weather and geological features. The rest of the threads went on to dialogue different ways that the software could be used for a variety of subjects. Apparently, the website allows students and teachers to take virtual trips based on the locations presented in the student’s literature assignments, using Google Earth. The program also allows classrooms to make their own ‘literature trips’ and post them on the site.
The Classroom 2.0 website is a great resource for teachers to use to collaborate and learn about new things. Google Earth seems like an ideal program to learn about and incorporate into any science class. I was interested in the ideas that the teachers had about cross-curriculum projects using the software. More than anything though, this assignment reminded me just how many resources are out there for teachers to create dynamic lessons.

(Photo of my mom's house in Austin, TX)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Journal # 7

Briggs, Linda. Technological Immersion Turns Around Texas Middle School. T.H.E. Journal, 3/20/

This article discusses the changes that happened at a middle school in Texas once both the students and the teachers were given access to technology. The school, Marvin Baker Middle School in Corpus Christi, Tx, is a Title I school where over 80 percent of the students qualify for free lunch. The school also houses the Athena Program for gifted and talented students, of which about one third of the students participate in. Three years ago the school received a grant that allowed them to secure laptop computers for every teacher and student. The grant then also allowed for staff development and workshops to enable the teachers to learn the technology and then to transfer that knowledge to the students.
The school credits staff development as the starting point for the changes seen in the school itself. So far the new technology has helped create an environment that allowed for the school to improve it’s testing scores as well as a resultant drop in school violence and disciplinary problems. The grants that allowed for the teacher training and the new laptops came from the Texas Technology Immersion Project which is a public and private partnership between the Texas Education Agency and several vendors including Apple and Dell among others. This article did bring up two questions for me that it did not address.

1. What are requirements for getting into the program, why was this school in particular picked for the grant. I actually dont have an answer for this or the following question. I wonder how invested the companies are when they donate computers and money for this project.

2. What happens when a student or teacher loses, breaks or has their computer stolen, is there any change to recover the property?Again, I dont have an answer for this question either. I would hope that there is some concession made to the students if they cannot replace the computer themselves (which seems very possible in a Title I school) but that there should also be some accountability on the part of the students who are receiving such a wonderful gift.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Journal # 6

My Experiences with Kidspiration
I had a hard time working with this software. I downloaded the InspireData and Kidspiration software. I thought that the quick tours of both programs were super and I was really excited to get started working on the programs once I downloaded the trial. I am not sure if it was just my inability to follow the tutorials, or if I just didn't spend enough time on the programs, but I found them both to be much less user friendly that I expected. Maybe that is what you get by going into things with expectations!! I thought that the InspireData program was particularly difficult to navigate, I spent some serious time trying to make graphs out of some of the databases they had already collected and found it difficult to get what I wanted. The tutorials on Atomic Learning were either to detailed (only giving you information about one small aspect) or didn't bother to go over the things I was trying to do. Eventually, after making some pretty unsatisfactory graphs, I moved on to Kidspiration, figuring that the software designed for younger children would be more appropriate for me. I thought that their activity sections were very good. I actually saw some students using the math programs in a second grade classroom the other day! I thought that the creative software was a little bit harder to use. It would have been nicer to make different kind of pictures besides just arrow graphs, and there weren't a ton of icons in the database. However, I did feel like I was more able to accomplish something with this program, and was actually proud of my picture!
I am going to keep working with the InspireData program while I still have the program on my computer, as I do think it is probably a lot more user friendly than I thought, I am chalking my inability to use it on my own technological shortcomings, not those of the program!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Journal #5

“Making Field Trips Podtastic” by Aliece Weller, John Bickar, and Paul McGuinness. Learning and Leading, March/April 2008.

This article documents a new trend in fieldtrips that uses new technological experiences to enhance the learning of children on fieldtrips. It begins by following Jay as he visits the Boston Museum of Science using a mix of podcasts, student multimedia creation, Web research and interviewing to enhance his learning experience. The article goes on to mention how these tools can help students enhance their understanding of students by making the fieldtrips more hands on. They also allow the students work together and to take the fieldtrip home with them by taking digital photos and keeping a web journal that they will have access to once they leave the museum.
Although this technology is not accessible in any other museum yet, the authors predict that this technology could be easily incorporated into other museum programs, after-school and neighborhood programs and even just for student’s personal use.


1. Does this technological experience of a museum take away from the human-ness of the experience?
– It seems that part of the interesting parts of going to a museum or another educational venue is having first hand stories told by a person. Although these could be relayed electronically, it seems possible that we may lose some of the human connection when we allow students to do most of their learning digitally.
2. What provisions will the museums or educators make for students who have less access to this technology at home and may struggle with it’s newness in a museum setting?
– It is always important to remember that students do not have the same resources at home as each other. Provisions should be made to make sure that the students are on the same level when they present the information, or at least make allowances for those who are less technologically inclined.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Journal #4

"Mind The Gap" by Cindy Long

As technology becomes an increasing component of education, attention needs to be paid to the differences in technological resources in varying neighborhoods. As computers become the place where learning occurs in the classroom, it is important to remember that not all students have equal access to them. These are the premises for Long’s article “Mind the Gap”, where she discusses some of the differences in student’s availability of technological resources and how that affects their education. The article profiles a number of students as they are introduced to technology or are able to increase their use of tech resources and how that affects their learning ability. According to the article there are still 30 million households that do not have computers and this number correlates to lower-income families. The article also discusses the major jumps in college bound students when technological resources are introduced into their education. In one of the profiles, district superintendent Dennis Bruno noted: “ When I first got here seven years ago, only 14% of them (students) were going to college after high school. Now 78% of graduating seniors go on to colleges and universities. The only difference is technology”. The article also discusses the prevalence of non-profit organizations that focus on adding technological resources to communities who cannot afford themselves as a way to even the gap between wealthy and poor students.
1. Why does technology account for such a large jump in college bound students?
-An increase from 14 to 78% is quite a change in college attendance for a school district. Although I have no concrete evidence to support this, it is my belief that the access to technology allows students to feel more prepared for college than they might otherwise feel. They may also do better in high school by using all of the resources that technology provides (internet, study groups, etc), which in turn may inspire students who weren’t performing as well before to suddenly find an interest in school including higher education.
2. How do you convince the government that access to technology should be a priority and afford some funding in the school districts?
-Get rid of the conservative regimes in power! Ok, and also continue to follow students who are given new access to technology as they continue their education. There needs to be more evidence that there does actually exist a technological gap between students and that it affects them throughout their lives.

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.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Intro Letter

My name is Erin, most people call me E. I was born in Austin, Texas - go Horns!!
I attended Austin Montessori School for K-6th, Kealing Jr. High and Johnston High. AISD was still in the practice of student busing when I was in school, so my Jr. and Sr. High schools were very far from my home. They just closed my high school this winter due to gang activity and poor test scores. I went to college at Tufts University in Boston, graduating with a BS in Geology, which I never use! Post college I worked in Australia, San Francisco, Big Bear and San Diego before leaving to spend two years travelling on the ocean as a cruise ship employee. I have been back in San Diego for just over 2 years.

I have a love/hate relationship with all things technological. I use a PC at work and use it mostly to create promotional educational material and update our website. We have Macs at home, but I tend to avoid them after using a computer all day at work. Although I feel fairly confident with both systems, I am more likely to pull out the phone book as use the Internet to find a number.

I appreciate the mission statement for the College of Education, particularly the commitments to life-long learning and promoting social justice. I teach a social justice class to my high school community service students and it is empowering to see their commitment to a concept that was all but foreign in my high school days. I did not read the mission statement before applying to the university, so obviously it made no impact on my decision to apply. I am, however, interested to see how the commitment to the mission statement plays out during the course of my education.