Thursday, March 8, 2012

Two Teacher Tech Topics

It's just a week for thinking about technology. I asked for feedback from student teachers on the effectiveness of blogging (feedback below), those same novice teachers asked for a chance to debate calculator use (and we did so), Dave Coffey and I are presenting Teacher Twitter at Michigan Association of Computer Users for Learning (MACUL) 2012 tomorrow, and when I walked in for parent teacher conferences at the middle school, a teacher and principal stopped me for a impromptu 25 min chat about calculators.  The twitter chat topic is practical wisdom for teacher use of technology. In a sideways approach, this post is about some of my use of technology.

The student teachers were polled on calculator use, 0 (calculators only when teachers specify use for specific tasks) to 10 (calculators are always assessible to learners at their own instigation and for whatever purposes.) The range was 5 to 9, perhaps not promising for debate, but two of the 9s volunteered to take a 0-1 position. They were asked to make a short 60-90 second YouTube statement on calculator use. So the video below contains 4 position pieces. The low tech guys take a bit more - but everything takes them longer, so no worries.

Afterwards, they discussed the statements, mostly spurred on by the low tech group.  Eventually, Alex brought up that what really mattered was conceptual understanding, and that this was what he really wanted to address.  My main contribution to the discussion was asking "would you really want to live in a world without crutches?" I think that most teachers who use that as a negative characterization feel like what's missing is a strategy to support the students in getting away from it. I also think that it's obvious to someone using crutches that life is better if they don't need them, we don't always make that so clear to students about life without a calculator.  I did try to make clear that there are teachers that have a different view than I do (I'm at 10 on the survey) that I respect tremendously, and all teachers' opinions on this topic are based on what they feel is best for the students.

Blogging Midterm Feedback
I ask the student teachers for one blogpost a week. They can have a literal blog or email it to me, and all but one chose a blog this semester. (Shame, as he has written some interesting things.) Here's the of all of them.  Each week I ask them to review the week, with an optional theme. After 8 weeks of writing, I asked them to email me feedback on how it is working for them. I was pleasantly surprised by the results.
  • I would say that they have not been helpful for me. I feel like I am already ALWAYS talking about what's going on in my placement to everyone. So writing in my blog seems very redundant for me.
  • I was thinking about the notions of reflection and consolidation. These types of concepts seem to be enforced in a way that is in a sense "Always On." There seems to be something that detracts from a lesson when it is not an additional component.
      Say for example a reflective learner would spend 1 hour doing a work shop and then reflect upon it for 5 minutes. When the workshop has a reflection built in, the learner spends 55 minutes on the work shop and 5 minutes of reflection. The reflection becomes locked into the lesson learned. Quantitatively there is a loss of about 7.7% time spent thinking about the subject right away. Then the closure that exercise essentially creates a psychological cue to stop thinking about the subject.
      Teaching a student to be reflective once, then allowing them to be naturally reflective will create a better lesson. This is my opinion and a reflection of my own work habits.
  • I feel that doing the blog is a good way to reflect on my teaching for the week and try to make my thoughts and feelings more concrete. I would say that it is helpful for me.
  • Overall, I think that writing the blog has been one of the most helpful things.  I do think, however, that I would be more open and honest about my opinion if I was not posting my reflections on the internet for everyone to see.
  • Blogging has been extremely beneficial to me while teacher assisting.  This helps me reflect on my, reminding me of what went well that week or what I can work on.  I have enjoyed writing my blog, and am glad I can keep a journal of my experience to look back on in the future.  Blogging is also a great way to share your journey with others. I did not think I would enjoy blogging, but it turned out that I really enjoy it and find myself blogging more than needed.
  •  I feel like it has been helpful. I've always liked the idea of blogging and writing my thoughts down, so this came natural to me. I like that it's very informal and nothing too structured. Because of that it doesn't feel like a task or an assignment to me. However, I do have to be honest in saying that the Twitter and Facebook posts seem a little much for me. I don't have access to the web on my phone and my days are often filled with school, class, or/and work, so getting to a computer just to post a tweet is a little time consuming for me each day. 

  • So before starting this class I thought for sure we would have to reflect in some way, I can see the main way we do that is through a blog.  At first I thought it was pointless and tedious and a waste of time, and frankly I didn't think anyone would ever read it.  But recently I have caught myself going back and looking at some of the past blogs I have put up.  I have begun to really see the use of them, to help reflect and give any advice to other people who may potentially read them.  I think they are a good idea and should be continued.  It is much easier than reflecting everyday, and typing is easier than handwriting as well.  Even though at times it may seem troublesome to take the time to make one I think we should continue.  If you have any other questions just let me know!
  • Initially, I really did not like writing on my blog. I thought that I could be using my time more beneficially doing other work. However, I have now realized that I would not be reflecting hardly at all if I was not required to do this blog. I think that reflection is a great thing, especially with this being our first semester teaching in a classroom. I feel like the blog is also a good way to keep you updated on what is going on in our classrooms. So, while I sometimes don't like writing on my blog, I am still glad that you require us to do it.
  • Up until this semester I have never been a journal writer, blogger, or anything of that nature.  I would never reflect on any aspect of my life and until recently would have found it pointless and a waste of time.  However, since I have been keeping this blog to reflect on my experiences I have seen how useful it can really be.  Writing in this blog has helped me to organize my thoughts with my experience in the classroom.  There is so much information being poured into me from so many different angles it's hard to keep track of it all, and blogging has really helped with that.  As well, I find that it is a great way to vent out any frustrations I have, or on the flip side, share exciting moments.  I have found that since I have been sharing my experiences I am extremely interested in others as well and find myself reading other teachers blogs for hours on end, gaining valuable insight into their classroom.  I have learned so much from keeping a blog, so yeah, it has been extremely helpful to me.
  • I think that the weekly writing has been very helpful. I have a lot of thoughts throughout the week and there are some things I want to remember and hang on to, to remind myself of later. The blog helps me organize those thoughts and really think about why I’m thinking about them and what is important. I have so many reflections and writings I have to do for my various classes, so it seems to get tedious and annoying frequently (daily reflection for/with my CT, 3+ weekly journals for 310, this writing, reflections on reading for 321 and this class etc), but I feel like I really enjoy the writing I do here. I think I really take what I write for this class seriously and use it as a way to reflect on the whole week on what I feel is important, rather than what other people want me to write about. Overall I feel that reflection is very important, however EVERY professor thinks the same and feels like we will not be doing reflections for other classes, and wants us to do some. This results in an overflow of reflections and kind of strips away the real value, leaving them as busy work rather than a chance to look back, improve, grow, change and learn.
While I believe it's useful, it's nice to hear that they think so, too. A few of the comments point at some of the reasons why it's nice for these reflections to be in a blog. A sense of permanence and sharing - although that does have its downsides as pointed out.

1 comment:

  1. Great article, John! I'll be including this post in the Math and Multimedia Carnival #21, hosted on my site, Math Concepts Explained, at