Thursday, July 30, 2015

Tweeting Answers

These days, social media plays a huge role in students distractions from schoolwork. Twitter is a free website that many of us are guilty of opening the application, scrolling through, and reading post after post of mindless information. Not all  posts are  full of mindless information. Following certain accounts can be very beneficial to our education and helping us learn more outside of the classroom.

In my Anatomy and Physiology class, our teacher had created an account just for our class and had just about all of the students  following it. The teacher's assistant, or TA, would sit in on every lecture and tweet the main points of the lesson. We did have PowerPoints and were taking notes while the professor was lecturing. However the Twitter account was a good tool to  reference if small details in our notes were missed  or if we wrote it down incorrectly.  Each class had many tweets that would fill our twitter news feed with information. This allowed the students to read through all the information again and  would not allow the students to forget that there was an account made for the class. I always went back and used the account to help study for major exams and quizzes to ensure I was getting the correct information.

Not only could you go back and review the tweets whenever you wanted to, but when it came to tests the professor would get on the account and answer questions students  had through tweets. This was better than email because once a student asked something and it was answered, the question and answer would appear on the twitter account for all to see and would not have to be answered multiple times. If this were email then the professor might be wasting  countless amount of time answering the same question and would not be very time efficient . The twitter account was also used to send out reminders of when certain reports were due, exam dates, material on exams, etc.

Using Twitter as a learning tool is a very clever move. It acts  as a constant reminder for students to pay attention to the facts and information in class instead of the latest gossip and pointless information that is covered on Twitter. It targets students  procrastinate,  and allows them to learn instead. Twitter is free to sign up, free to follow accounts, and therefore it is a very cost effective  tool to uses in the classroom. If more classrooms used Twitter then it would  become more informative  and less gossip.

I enjoyed using  Twitter in my education, because it helped me as I am  too shy to speak up and ask certain questions and it just leaves my feed with meaningful information. I can always gain more knowledge  when I see that  posts come through. People who are not paying attention to the professor during class cannot use Twitter to distract them because the class account posts  live during each class. The best part about Twitter is that it is easy to use and free. It is a great tool especially for those on a budget.  

Monday, July 20, 2015

Google Running a School

In San Francisco there is a special school founded by a former Google Executive. The AltSchool is an elementary school and is not your typical classroom. There are no desks and students have more freedom to learn what they wish to learn. They develop their own curriculum by exploring their likes and dislike as they learn. There are teachers move from classroom to classroom helping students throughout the day.

The AltSchool has started to expand their space to accommodate more rooms for learning. Since they are not typical classrooms, a school can be placed  in any type of environment. Unfortunately, the school does not come at a cheap price. Around $21,000 a year will get your child this type of education. The rooms are filled with  iPads, laptops, and other devices that assist in specific fields of study. The teachers that move throughout the building  monitor what the students  interest are and come up with a specific learning plan just for that student. If one student has a better understanding of a specific topic, that student will be placed in an  advanced classroom. For the students struggling in certain areas, like math for example, the teacher will allow the student to study the topic at their own pace and provide the student with extra assistance along the way. 

I believe this form of study and teaching is very beneficial to students in the long run. It is similar to that of college in allowing the student to pick their field of study. This allows the students to develop their true passion  at a much younger age. This could allow college students to have a defined path of study avoid switching majors. This could also ensure a college student does not have to put in extra years completing their major and lessens their debt. Tuition for these elementary schools is expensive, but still significantly less than one year of college.

The AltSchool is an intriguing new approach to schooling. I believe it would benefit students. I hope to see how the results play out whether this alternative to traditional schools is  beneficial or not. The fact that this type of schooling is growing shows that parents believe it could be beneficial to their child's education. It is similar to  a technology advanced Montessori school and will have some type of  impact on its students.  The money put into an elementary school child's education now, could pay off  in the long run. This allows the education of that child to be more of an investment and less of a cost.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Online Blackboard

Many colleges and universities these days are implementing an online database type website for their students. Two common databases are Blackboard and Canvas. These websites have special sections broken down for your school, so you can log into information  just for your school. They allow the students to log in and be able to view what classes they are currently enrolled in, grades, announcements from teachers, and many teachers post  notes and papers they would like students to print  and bring to class.

My school uses Blackboard and it can be tricky to get around at first, but once you play around with it you will realize it is not that hard at all! Once you login there is a red number in the corner advising you how many notifications are waiting for you. These notifications inform you if a teacher has posted any new assignments, grades, or have any important announcements. When you click on the button to view the notifications, the grades are posted in a  separate category from the other notifications. You can choose to go to the grades or  class  from this screen. 

Each subject lists the grades. They show what you have received on each assignment as well as your overall average for the class. Many teachers use a point system that is easily seen, but they can also use percentages  to makes up your grade. These just may seem confusing because you may be missing assignments that you haven't done yet (like exam 3 worth 15% but you only have taken exam 1 so far). All your grades are still posted and allow you to be able to keep track of your assignment.

When you click to go into the other classes  the posts are announcements from your teachers. They either have a message they wish to tell the class, or have posted papers that you may want to access or print before the next class.  Each class gets its own accessible  link . You may use this to access each class at any time and view all papers posted and all announcements for that class. Many teachers also post their class syllabus here. All of the classroom information is at your fingertips in this area. The teacher leaves contact information there for you to contact them with any questions you may have.

I believe Blackboard is helpful in getting your materials ready for class. The fact that it can be easily accessed to print out notes, or pull classroom notes and lectures  up through your laptop to during class is very helpful. I like it the most to keep track of my grades. It allows me to focus on the classes I need more assistance in. During finals week it also is a strong tool to use to figure out how well you need to do on each final to receive  a good grade. This helps me understand which subejcts I need  to study more for than others and helps me manage my study time. Many teachers even post study guides through Blackboard. Blackboard is a very helpful tool to make learning much easier than it used to be.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Overcoming the Fear of Too Much Technology in the Classroom

While technology continues to advance at such a fast rate in the United States, schools are struggling to keep up with these fast paced changes.  Many schools in the United States continue to invest in the newest and fastest computers and tablets. Most teachers, students, and parents feel that as technology changes in the real world, it is only natural for technology to progressively move into classrooms. But while most education professionals support technology , there are still others who feel that all of the new integrative technology  will hinder students in the classroom.

One of the major concerns education professionals have is completely relying on technology. Some believe that as computers are being used more and more in our everyday lives, that schools will eventually dismiss the old fashioned pencil, paper, and textbook. I feel that this is very unlikely. Young students will always need to be taught how to write legibly, spell, and read from textbooks. Plus, adults continue to use these basic skills in their daily lives. Since members of society continue to handwrite notes, and read newspapers or menus there will always be a need for these skills. One problem I can see regarding too much technology in classrooms is students  becoming too dependable on computers. For example, students may become too accustomed to spell checking applications on computers. These dependencies can then resurface in handwritten notes when students forget how to spell certain words, simply because spell check was always there to correct the word. Despite the need to stick with some of the traditional paper and pencil methods of learning, students can also benefit by learning skills such as typing, coding, and troubleshooting on the computer at younger ages.

Other professionals feel that when students learn from computers, the technology turns learning into a game rather than a sequence of problem solving. This argument may  hold water; however, I think that it is important to make learning interactive and fun for the students. This then engages students who typically lose interest or become frustrated with learning to continue trying. No one ever said that learning needs to be a long and tedious process. In fact, if students enter school with a positive mindset and are anxious to learn because it is fun, then they may learn even more. When comparing  a classic pencil and paper worksheet, to worksheets on an iPad, the iPad allows students to check their work and see not only what they answered incorrectly, but why they were wrong. Technological “worksheets” may also allow students who excel in an area to be challenged more, while giving extra support to those who struggle with certain material. Technology essentially allows for more individualized lessons, whereas traditional education can appear to be cookie-cutter or not tailored to individual student’s needs.

One last problem that too much technology in the classroom can cause  is the lack of personal interaction. As I have stated in past blog articles, large amounts of technology can also breed hermits. While social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter connect us, they equally disconnect us as people. In general, I feel that most education professionals recognize this idea and are ensuring that curricula are set up so that there are enough teacher-student and student-student interactions. In fact, computer based group discussions and problem solving can actually act as a fantastic method of teaching student to work and learn together.

Ultimately, we can see that while there is opposition to computers in classrooms, there is a lot of support for technology as well. This essentially allows me to conclude that there should be a steady balance of instruction from teachers and technology. Society should never reach a point where a class is completely individualized technology based or a completely cookie-cutter. Education needs to find a medium between the two extremes. Within the next few generations of students we will be discovering exactly what works with education and technology and what does not.