8C1: My Vision of 2020

2020? It used to sound like that year was incredibly far in the future!  Now it is just around the corner!  As I look back at my teaching career, which started before…..years before….the advent of home computers and definitely before the World Wide Read Web (let alone the Read / Write Web, it is mind boggling to think about all the changes in the world.  I’d like to say that we’ve had the same mind boggling changes in Education.  Unfortunately, Education has only been undergoing significant changes in the last 10 to 15 years.  On the positive side those changes are now starting to multiply and grow at a good pace.

My vision of what the world could be like in 2020 includes the world continuing to shrink as more and more technology allows us to connect seamlessly with people around the world.  As we are able to easily connect with people who have like interests, maybe many of the issues that plague our world can also begin to shrink.  Getting to know people and cultures from around the world will shrink our prejudices against what in reality is the unknown.  The shrinking world will allow us to see for ourselves what other areas of the world are really like without the influence of the media or governments.  Kids will become friends with kids from places that are only a spot on the map today.  If these kids are able to connect, it could create understanding of different cultures.  As they grow to become the adults of the world, this knowledge and understanding will create a world where wars are fewer simply because the unknown becomes known.  Technology is the key to that.

2020 is so close that my vision for that year is still just the beginning of what will be in the future beyond that year.  For the sake of this narrative, let’s just look at 3 years from now based on what is happening today in 2017.  Today, schools are slowly finding the funds to provide a 1:1 initiative in more and more schools.  In my vision of 2020, all schools will provide laptops or iPads or some other mobile device for their students.  (To make it easy, let’s call those devices laptops.)  Once that occurs, the world can come right into the classroom and true learning can take place.  Gone are the days where I stand in front of the class and lecture for an hour.  What happens now, is that I will give students just enough information to grab their attention and engage them in the real-world activities that they will be participating in.  Students will collaborate, not only with other students in the class but with students around the world.  If they are trying to understand the culture of Israel, they will be able to contact and talk, in a f2f situation via Facetime or Skype, with students in Israel.  Making those connections leads to a greater understanding of each other and their cultures.

Students will become better learners because they can choose the method by which to learn.  They can do research using various sources but they can also write about what they are learning and publish it on the Read / Write Web.  Experts on those subjects will respond and discussion will result.  Students will be able to gain knowledge, not from me (because in reality I’m not an expert but just a student), but from true experts in various fields.  Learning becomes interactive.  Experts will no longer be out of reach but instead will be touchable and willing to talk to future experts in their field of study.  Students who struggle with writing are able to present their knowledge by publishing podcasts, vlogcasts or screencasts with similar discussions or connections that are being made through blogging.

In three years, I think that schools will still be brick and mortar but there will also be more and more online and blended schools.  Today, more and more teachers are being trained to teach via the Internet.  In 2020, these online schools will as normal as physical schools.  Students who can’t for whatever reason get to a physical school will have choices of how to go to school.  They will be able to choose between fully online or going to a physical school via Skype or some other visual feed.  They will make friends that become lifetime friends just as if they were in the same room.  They will not feel isolated.

Tools will continue to evolve.  During the course of this class, we’ve learned how to use and integrate so many tools: blogs, RSS feeds, social bookmarking, and many more.  All of these tools (and more that have not yet emerged) will continue to make it easier and easier for students to find primary sources in a shorter amount of time.  They will make collaboration the standard instead of just for special projects.  Social networking sites will become more a part of the classroom instead of just a place to cyberbully or to read the latest piece of gossip about what happened in the lunchroom.  Again, true discussion about educational subjects will take place.  Group work will take place on social networks spaces that will attract experts in the fields of those discussions.

The choices I make today (and honestly, ones that I have been making for the last 10 years) about what and how to integrate, not only technology but also teaching the way students learn, will create engaged students who realize that learning doesn’t have to be boring.  Learning is the goal of those choices.  I, as a teacher, also need to continue to learn.  That learning is not necessarily about a specific subject but about how to teach my students.  What engages them? What are they doing outside of my four walls that I can harness? Students won’t need me to give them knowledge.  Students will need me to teach them how to find knowledge.  Students will need me to teach them how to reach that wider body of experts who will help them create their own knowledge.  Students will need me to teach them how to be safe in their search for knowledge.

The final part of my vision of education in 2020, is that All teachers will share my vision.  All teachers will finally understand that the students in 2020, whether they are in kindergarten or seniors in high school, learn differently than generations of students before them.  They will finally all be on board with the fact that technology is not going away and that they need to teach students the way they learn.

2020? It’s almost here!  We need to get busy!

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8A1: Web Applications

There are so many web applications that are available for student use.  Many of my fellow classmates have already talked about the benefits of one of my favorite applications – Google Suite for Education, I decided to branch out a bit and discuss an application that works for my music students.  The web application that I want to talk about is called Noteflight.

I teach Music Appreciation as one of my classes.  Part of my class is learning how to read music and to understand the elements of music such as melody, harmony, meter, and the various ways music creates emotion or drama.  This application allows my students to actually create a piece of music that encompasses those elements.  This is a simple way to turn a paper and pencil unit into a real world application.  The students create their own piece of music and then share it with their classmates and the world if they wish.

I also teach choir.  This application has uses for that as well.  The students in my choir are required to practice outside of class in order to learn their individual parts.  I used to record their parts and then upload them to google drive so that they could practice.  With the advent of Noteflight, I can input the music via my computer keyboard or through a midi application by playing the parts on my keyboard.  Students can then access the music through any digital device.  They are then able to not only hear the music but see the music as they practice.  Band students learn their music by reading and playing the notes on the page. Historically, choir students can only learn the music by listening to the part as it is played and then sing it with the piano.  This application allows them to stop, start, replay until they know their part.  After that, they can add the other parts and sing their part with them as well.  This advances their individual knowledge of the music in a much broader scale.  Since my students have been using this app, the sound of our choir has improved substantially.  Additionally, with the new standards and student growth initiative that is now a part of our evaluation, students can record themselves singing with their part and then evaluate their performance.  Another aspect of this application is that they have begun to create a library of pieces that are accessible for an additional fee.  These pieces are complete with all of the parts as well as the accompaniment.

It is also good for differentiating for each level of student.  Students who are quick to learn are able to tweak their own knowledge of the music while students who need extra help are able to work individually with the music until they too are successful.  All of these capabilities, makes this web application an effective addition to students in my classes!

Source of above image:
Noteflight Image of home page [This image is of the home page of the website.]. (n.d.). Retrieved March 4, 2017, from http://www.rocketfarmstudios.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Noteflight.png

 

7A1: Know “Where” Learning

In my many years of teaching, which at this point makes me OLD, I have seen so many shifts in education.  Not all of them have been good!  With the advent and growth of the World Wide Read / Write Web, my teaching philosophy has taken a huge turn.  For years now, I have been a big proponent of teaching students how and where to find the answers to questions.  My colleagues, and other adult friends, have cried out, “they need to memorize these “things” (insert any subject).  What’s going to happen when the Internet goes down?  How are they going to be able to do anything?”  My response has been that a) I don’t think that’s going to happen and b) it’s here to stay just like many other inventions that people proclaimed as fads.  My great, great uncle once had a chance to invest in Henry Ford’s new idea of mass producing the horseless carriage.  My uncle turned him down saying that he didn’t feel the horseless carriage would take off and that it was just a fad!  (Slap to the forehead!)  My point here is that while there are, of course, things that students need to know without having to look it up, there are many, many things that they  don’t need to as long as they know how and where to find the answers they need.

As I began putting more and more of my curriculum into project based collaborative learning units, I realized that students are happier and learn more by finding the answers themselves.  It’s a much more authentic way to learn.  Wait….did I just say learn?  Yes, that is what I said.  They don’t need to learn it from me.  They need to have my guidance on where to find what they need to learn!  This has been a huge shift in my teaching practice.  I find that guiding them towards their own creation of knowledge allows them to retain that knowledge for a lot longer than the test.  Some of the best assessments that I have given have not been about regurgitating the answers that I gave them but showing me the answers that they found.  Now that our school is a 1:1 school, I expect that there will be even more of a shift as more and more sites and applications become available for me to use with my particular subject!

My views on this shift have not changed due to this course but they have been strengthened!  The one shift that I know I need to start focusing more on is teaching my students the “how and where“.  It is hard to find those extra hours to spend teaching that skill but after spending time with this course and reflecting on my students’ skill levels, I know that it is a skill that I owe it to my students to teach.  I’m really excited to continue working through the shift of Know “Where” Learning.

7B1: Paperless Spaces

 

 

A paperless class completely changes the role of the teacher.  I become a participant in the learning.  I become the guide instead of the sage on the stage.  Instead of handing out the knowledge via lecture, students gain knowledge by researching it. Just as important, they gain knowledge by back and forth discussion with others in the class.  In many ways, this is exactly what we do in the PLS classroom.  Using sources online such as articles, parts of textbooks, blogs by experts, and information from each other we gain knowledge on a topic.  According to our textbook, one of the big shifts is that students no longer need mastery (necessarily) of the material but they do need mastery of how to find the information.

Measuring learning in a paperless class would be a challenge.  Of course, you can measure knowledge based on any papers, blogs, presentations (which would include pictures, videos, and possible music) to gage the learning that took place. You could also measure growth based on the responses to discussions and responses taking place within the class.

Building a learning network in a paperless class would actually be easier once students understood how to create that network.  They would need to be taught about social bookmarking sites such as Diigo.com, blogging sites such edublogs.org, as well as tags and the best way to use them so that their work could be found outside the class.  They also need to become familiar with publishing tools!  Once they have a basic knowledge of these tools, building the network is easy!

6A3: Connectivism

Learning theory or pedegogical approach?  I personally think it’s a discussion of semantics.  Group B states that connectivism is not a learning theory because it not possible to show how students learn or what process they use to gain knowledge.  In the past, mastery of a topic was assessed by what the student could regurgitate from the information given to them by the teacher.  That doesn’t work in today’s world of “just in time” knowledge.  Maybe we need to move away from the term “mastery” and look harder at growth.  Growth CAN be assessed.  It doesn’t matter how that growth occurs.  What matters is that there IS growth in knowledge.

Group B also says that learning that takes place outside the classroom is difficult to assess.  Learning has always taken place outside the classroom.  Let’s think about all those papers that were written via information from encyclopedias, newspapers, or other printed sources of information.  That information was accessed outside of the classroom and was beyond what the teacher taught.  The only difference between that and information gathering today is that it is contained in huge databases that are easily searched and and easily accessed.  There is still learning taking place!

 

6C2: Skyping

Skype is a technology that can really bring the world to your classroom.  It can help you connect with friends and colleagues that don’t live close by.  It can allow your students to work together or to experience a guest speaker that is across the country.

Yesterday, Shawn and I talked via Skype.  Even though we have “talked” via messages or posts before, being able to talk in real time with video made me feel like I “know” him now.  I have a face and a voice to go along with the personality that I’ve come to know in class.  I think this would make a great choice for working with colleagues in other areas.  One of the things I like about using it to collaborate is that there are times when typing questions and answers back and forth is less than satisfying.  By using Skype or even Facetime, you can talk things out and bounce ideas back and forth.  This would also be a good tool for students to use to collaborate for the same reasons!

Earlier I said that Skype could bring the world into your classroom.  This is a tool that would allow you to have guest speakers that are across the city, country or even world!  My neighbor, who is a high school ceramics teacher, and I were discussing this idea the other day!  There is an artist in the ceramics world, who is a bit of a celebrity in that world, who reached out to her and paid her a compliment on her students’ work.  We came up with the idea of asking him if he would be willing to be a guest speaker for her classes.  She is really excited about this because he lives on the east coast.  We even bounced around the idea of having him critique some of the student work and give suggestions! How cool would that be for both the teacher and the student?

5B3: Podcasts in the Classroom

Podcasts…..hmmm…..I teach choir.  We sing.  We don’t have time to do anything else! (This statement is said by choir directors everywhere!)  In reality, podcasts might just fit seamlessly into that curriculum without taking time out from preparing for the next concert, contest, or other performance.

As I was looking around, I found an amazing podcast series called The Choir Conductor.  While this series is not completely for use with students, several of the episodes could be adapted for student use in a variety of areas of choir education.  For instance, some of the episodes talk to professionals in the world of music education as well as students who are in a choir.

For this activity, I chose an episode that was a podcast of a high school’s winter concert.  To use this particular episode as a learning activity with my own choir, I would have them listen to it and pay attention to the choir’s sound (vowels, diction, expression, control, etc).  These are all areas that, as a middle school choir, we work on continuously.  After listening to the podcast, I would have them write a blog post about what they heard.  After listening and writing, I would have them listen to a recording (maybe I can start creating podcasts out of OUR concerts) of our choir.  I would then have them compare the two and reflect on how they, personally, could improve their sound.

Podcasts….hmmm…..I teach choir.  Yep, I can use those!