Technology


Today was another day, one that started off in sort of a frantic rush. We got a fair amount of snow overnight, and I was stuck clearing off two cars (the first car, which I drove over to pick up the car I would drive to school, which was also covered). This compounded the fact that I was running late, and the roads were bad enough that I was rather slowed down by other cars (I tend not to be too slowed down by snowy and icy roads, only by people being more cautious than I). Then I realized seven miles toward my destination (which is about 20 miles away) that I had left my lunch and my briefcase in the first car, so I turned around and went back. To my horror, I ended up making it to school about 10 minutes after school had begun.

Fortunately, I caught a break: today was our Mimio training, and the trainer hadn’t even made it in yet!

Which brings me to that imperative that I’ve so often told students but not remembered myself: Don’t panic! (It’s too bad that very few of my students get the reference – why isn’t Douglas Adams more appreciated?) I need to remember this a little more, even though I don’t consider myself a worrying person.

The training, though, was quite excellent, not to mention a lot of fun, and now I’m really hooked on the device. I will be using it tomorrow, trying to get students involved in its use. Hopefully, it will be something that I can keep doing – somewhat sparingly – in order to keep students a little more engaged. The more they can interact, the better, and the more of them that I can get to interact, the better.

Now I have some planning ahead for the seniors, who really need some direction. The real problem I’m having is not being assessment minded – there is a very tangible product of the unit – but in trying to teach skills rather than information. Everything is so individualized that it’s much more difficult to find ways to have every student doing work without doing it individually. I have some thinking to do – how do you deal with instruction like this that is so much less of a corporate affair?

I think teaching is cyclical just like anything else: There are good days, and there are bad. Some days, you feel like you’ve accomplished a great deal; other days, you feel like you’ve failed to do your job for your students entirely. And on rarer days, you might feel both in spurts, which is precisely what I felt today.

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Week 1 is over for student teaching, and I have to consider it largely a success. I’ve been teaching one course entirely since Tuesday, and those students have been fairly responsive over that time. I’ve also learned quite a bit about these classes and about instructional technique in just these few short days.

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Today was the first time meeting my cooperating teacher for student teaching, who I’ll also be doing an internship with this semester in preparation. (And yes, I did get fingerprinted – inklessly! – before going.)

My first impression of the teacher, Mrs. B, was tempered by loads of positive words from both former students (now my classmates and fellow candidates) and faculty who have taught her and/or worked with her. (She fortunately received good words about me as well!) That aside, she’s a perfectly lovely person, and she was more than encouraging when discussing the classroom atmosphere and her previous experiences with student teachers (I’m #11 for her – good to know!). We discussed many things, including a large project to be completed during student teaching, which will probably be centered around a unit on 1984. (It’s not like I haven’t had ideas…)

I’m fortunate in lots of ways here: to have an experienced and well-liked coop, to be teaching honors/AP sections (along with one middle school class with another teacher), and (among other things) to be in a district and classroom with technology! She mentioned today that she has a “mimeo board” (what I know as a “Smart Board“) which she hasn’t quite worked out using yet, and I think I’ll be taking her up on her offer to help get it working.

This is going to be fun.

Quick and dirty, in numbered list:

  1. I’m absolutely exhausted. Wiped out. Insert other “tired” synonyms here; I don’t have the energy to think of any more (or even go for a thesaurus).
  2. My classes this semester seem manageable so far. The one class I fully expect to struggle with is my third (and thankfully last) semester of Spanish, which is taught by a very talented professor…who also happens to have a thick accent and speaks so rapidly that it’s often difficult to catch everything he says, let alone comprehend it. If I make it through this class, I expect to be able to communicate in a practical situation.
  3. I’m actually quite excited about the opportunities I will have for teaching this semester. My cooperating professor for CWRR (see here) is doing an excellent job of making connections between that course and the Classical Traditions course I’m also taking with her. I’m also thoroughly excited about the work I’ll be doing in preparation for student teaching, one for a Teacher Work Sample I’ll need to complete (which will include a unit to teach) and the other for another unit I’ll be teaching. (Of course, I might be less enthusiastic when it comes down to hammering them out. We’ll see.)
  4. Last point: The honors CWRR class today was interesting to observe. Being freshmen coming out of the school’s exhaustive (and exhausting) First Week, they were somewhat distracted and very intimidated. Still, they seemed like they could be a lively bunch, and it will be interesting to see how they expand from personal writing to personal research (interviewing) to professional research (research paper). I don’t know what to expect thus far, but I think it will be a rewarding experience in the long run.

That’s day one – we’ll see how things come together tomorrow.

We all know that gas prices right now suck. They’ve sucked for about, oh, 7 years now. (I think 9/11 was the beginning of the end, but I could be mistaken.) Like everything else, higher education is being affected.

Or so the New York Times reports today (“High Cost of Driving Ignites Online Classes Boom”), citing numerous schools (although the vast majority of them seem to be community colleges, there are some 4-year institutions represented as well) who have seen dramatic increases – at least one over 100%! – in their online enrollment.

Now, I’ve taken a handful of online courses – one sociology, one business, one literature, possibly others that I’m not recalling offhand – and I have to say that I do not find that they are not conducive to authentic learning. I found myself fighting to stay with the material and eventually not even really studying it, opting instead to do a little bit of cramming for the exams (which were universally simple and required very little thinking about the material other than regurgitation of facts). So I think this is a bad trend for a number of reasons.

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It just goes to show that original ideas are hard to come by – especially good ones.

In a recent post, I proposed an annotation system where users could log in and add their own comments to works in the public domain. I thought this was a brilliant idea, and I expressed my surprise that no one had thought of it.

That’s because someone had – several people, actually.

While the second link is licensed, the first is not, and I am currently trying to see how it will work (using Orwell’s essay as a test). I had hoped that I might be able to do something like this (and even had a semi-working prototype), but why reinvent the wheel? Maybe I can take the work that has already been done (since it has been released under a GNU General Public License) and utilize it with a backend system (I have no idea if this system discriminates between users at all).

Here’s to hoping (and thanks in advance, Geof!).

I had a very interesting idea – one that I would like to see through – for an educational tool for teachers and students of literature, possibly even extending beyond the normal literary canon to historical or sociological works. Hopefully someone will give me some feedback on how useful this sounds.

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As indicated on my About page, I attend a small Midwestern liberal arts university. After I had the idea to start this teaching-related blog, it occurred to me that it would be something useful for education teachers to consider using. Since the education program I am in has a relatively new block program (see here) that I went through in the fall semester, I decided to direct my suggestion to the professors in charge of that program, one of whom has already commented (thanks, Dr. Hoffman). Even though I have already sent some of my suggestions to the three professors indicated, I wanted to flesh out more of my proposal of how blogs could be used quite effectively in a program such as the junior block.

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