Sunday, January 27, 2013

Blog Post #2

Did you know?

Did You Know? A John Strange 2012 Version presents quite a few surprising facts that I did not know before watching it. It really blows my mind that the 25% of India's population with the highest IQs is higher than the entire population of the United States. I knew India had a much larger population than the U.S., but I didn't realize until now just how much larger it was. Even so, that's a lot of wonderful people that could really help our world advance its technology and knowledge base. I also found it shocking that the number of native English speakers in the world will very soon be outnumbered by English-speaking Chinese! Language barriers can make it hard to work with other people, but with more and more people around the world learning English, we are better able to communicate and work together on inventing new things and making technological advances!

The video also made me realize just how often we use technology in our day-to-day lives, as well as how much data is being exchanged between people every day all over the world. The sheer amount of text messages people send every day shocked me. The video claims that EDM310 students from the fall semester of 2012 sent an average of 108 texts a day . Personally, I don't send nearly that many text messages in a day, but it's easy to see most people sending that many text messages. Everywhere you look, you see people's fingers sliding furiously across their cell phone's keyboard. It's amazing how texting has become a normal part of our day.

What's even more amazing is just how fast technology is advancing. Every day, new data and new knowledge is being exchanged. The video states that the top jobs 10 years from now don't even exist yet, and that the technology that will be used for those jobs haven't even been invented! How mind-blowing is that? As a teacher, I'm going to be preparing my students for jobs I can't even begin to imagine. As a math teacher, I'll be teaching my students the mathematical equations and principles they'll be using in their careers to invent, build, and program our future technologies. Let's hope everything I teach my students sticks with them!

Mr. Winkle Wakes

A picture of Mr. Winkle from the video
In the video Mr. Winkle Wakes by Mathew Needleman, we witness the short journey of an old man named Mr. Winkle, which is an allusion to Rip van Winkle. After sleeping for one hundred years, Mr. Winkle awakes and decides to explore. He soon discovers that the world is nothing like the one he left behind when he fell asleep one hundred years ago. He first makes his way into a tall office building and is confused by all the computers and printers he sees. He doesn't understand what they are or how they work. This makes him feel uncomfortable, so he leaves the building. Feeling sick, the old man walks to a hospital. Inside, he's even more shocked by the technology the doctors and nurses are using to help patients. Deciding that the hospital isn't going to make him feel any better, he wanders back out on the street. He comes across a school and enters. Inside, he realizes that this school is a lot like the school he remembers. The students sit in desks all day and are lectured, with little to no use of technology. Mr. Winkle notices a computer in the back of one room, but it's gathering dust and not being used. At the end of the video, the narrator remarks, "It was comforting to know that even after one hundred years, some things still remained the same."

I found the video a bit disturbing because of the truth behind Mr. Winkle's discovery about schools today. Even though we've had this amazing technology for years, schools are still behind in implementing it all. When I was in high school, I still had teachers who used the old fashioned projectors. I only had a small number of teachers throughout middle school and high school who even used SMART boards. When SMART boards first started being introduced into schools a few years ago, I and many other students thought they were really cool! We always wanted to play with them, and I loved it when my teacher used them as part of the lesson. But the fact is, they're not used enough in classrooms. Plus, there is other technology that needs to be utilized more in the classroom. Sitting there being lectured--being talked at, as I like to say--is boring. It's so easy to lose attention and have your mind wander when you're just listening to your teacher go on and on about something and not trying to get the students involved in the discussion. I think computers need to be used more in the classroom. Students need to do more hands-on activities, and the internet can be a wonderful place to find fun activities for students to do that help contribute to the lesson. There are plenty of educational videos on YouTube for students to watch, and there are endless ways to utilize a SMART board for a lesson. Students will have more fun learning and be more receptive to their lessons if more technology is introduced into schools.

Sir Ken Robinson: The Importance of Creativity

Our education system was designed by the Victorians for an age of mass production
According to Sir Ken Robinson, schools kill creativity. That might sound a bit drastic, but he presents a wonderful argument. At one point, he states, "If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original." Think about it. Anyone who has ever invented something or come up with a new idea failed in his or her endeavors numerous times before he or she got it right. Failure is part of success, but Ken Robinson argues that today's school systems are putting so much emphasis on teaching students to never make mistakes that students are actually afraid of being wrong. Because of this, "we are educating people out of their creative capacities" (Robinson). What are the subjects that are focused on the most in schools today? Math and science. Even when my parents and grandparents were in school, schools mainly focused on teaching mathematics and science. I'm not saying that those two subjects aren't important. I'm saying that we need to stop throwing the arts under the bus.

Robinson states that when public education was created, it was " meet the needs of Industrialism" where "the most useful subjects for work are at the top". Math and science have always been at the top. They've always been the most stressed subjects in schools, and they still are today. We've all heard on the news about schools cutting back on funding for music and art programs because they're not considered as useful as mathematics and science classes. And yet, many schools refuse to cut back spending on sports. I find it maddening that schools would place sports up on a pedestal and completely ignore music and the arts. Robinson further explains that we were probably "steered benignly away" from things that we liked just because our educators and parents didn't think we would get a job doing those things. Personally, I entered college wanting to be a Graphic Design major, but my own family told me I wouldn't be able to get a job as a Graphic Designer, so I felt compelled to change my major, even though I really liked the arts.

Another thing Robinson talks about is that we;re experiencing a sort of "academic inflation", as he calls it. Jobs that used to not require a degree are suddenly now requiring them, and jobs that required only a B.A. are now requiring a Masters. With more and more people around the world receiving higher education, degrees are decreasing in value. Robinson urges us to rethink our definition of intelligence because, "intelligence is diverse, dynamic, and distinct." There are so many levels to intelligence, and there are so many different things about which a person can be intelligent. We shouldn't limit the definition of intelligence to just one or two things. We need to embrace all forms of intelligence!

Think about the Future of Schools

After watching these videos, I've realized the importance of introducing more technology into schools. Not only will it prepare students for their future careers for which technological literacy is a must, but it can also provide students with different ways to discover what they enjoy doing. Middle school and high school students are pressed to begin thinking about what they want to do when they graduate, and that can be really stressful. They haven't yet gotten enough chances to explore their interests, so how can we expect them to decide on a career or a college major? If we used technology more in the classroom, students could use the internet to help discover what they really enjoy doing, and teachers could assign a variety of projects to their students that would appeal to their interests. For example, a teacher could give students a wide variety of subjects to choose from and assign them to create a powerpoint or even a video on the subject matter of their choice. If students worked on projects about things that interested them, I guarantee you they would be more eager to do them.

In my lifetime, I hope to see testing phased out. It would be even more wonderful if standardized testing would disappear by the time I enter the field as a teacher, but I know that's not going to happen. I abhor testing, and I know students do, too. Testing just forces students to memorize some facts and regurgitate it back on a test. Then they wipe their memories clean to store other facts to their short-term memory and repeat the process. Students don't learn and retain information very well when they have to worry about constant testing. Instead of spitting out tests all the time, we should encourage students to exercise their knowledge in other ways. Doing projects on subjects that interest them is a great way to do so. We should encourage students to make YouTube videos and PowerPoints or keep a blog like we're doing in EDM310. These things are much more interactive and much more fun than filling in bubbles on an answer sheet.


Pinterest logo
I've been hearing a lot of good things about Pinterest for quite some time now, but I never got around to actually checking it out. By reading Four Ways to Use Pinterest in Education, I realized just how useful Pinterest can be in the classroom. If I'm browsing Pinterest and I see someone else has posted an idea for a lesson plan pertaining to mathematics, I can re-pin it to one of my boards so I can go back and look at it at a later date. I can also use Pinterest to share any ideas I find with other teachers at my school, and this will create a wonderful web where we can exchange new and creative ideas with each other! Also, I can create a board on Pinterest for my students to pin fun math-related images they find, such as math jokes or even ideas for math games to play in the classroom.

The 20 Best Pinterest Boards About Education Technology provides, as the title implies, 20 links to excellent boards on Pinterest that are useful for educators. After clicking on the links, I decided to follow a few of them for future reference. First, I followed the board titled EDTECH by Patricia Brown because it lists many great websites for learning how to incorporate technology, like the iPad and its myriad of apps, into your daily classroom activities. Second, I decided to follow Kathy Schrock's Support Pages board, on which she pins loads of different guides, from using QR codes in the classroom to using Twitter. Third, I followed Kristin Brynteson's Ed tech board because there is such a variety of tutorials for various interests and subjects. The pin that really caught my eye was Minecraft in the classroom. Minecraft is one of the games I really enjoy playing, so if I can learn to incorporate it into my lessons, I will be very excited, and I'm sure my students will be, too! Fourth, I followed Melissa Alonzo-Dillard's Smartboard board because it provides links to a lot of activities and games that can be done on a SMART board. Finally, I followed ISTE's Ed Tech Resources board mainly because it has a pin about math apps for the iPad, which will be very useful for me as a math teacher.

Even though Pinterest might be a little difficult to incorporate into a mathematics course, I'm positive I could make it work. I could use Pinterest to search for good lesson plans and ideas on better ways to teach math. As I mentioned above, I could get my students to create an account on Pinterest, and I could create a board where my students could all pin funny math pictures or ideas on fun math games to play. We could hold contests to see who can find the funniest math joke or the most interesting math game, and we could vote on them every week. This would motivate students to get more involved and show them that math can actually be fun!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Project #2-Wordle

A Wordle image displaying important words from the previous blog post

This is a Wordle image created using the information in Blog Post #1. It's interesting to see which words Wordle chooses to make the biggest and where each individual word is placed. I'm very happy with the way my Wordle turned out. I love how it emphasized "students", "school", and "help" the most.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Blog Post #1

About Me

Hello! My name is Rebecca Lathem, but I usually go by Becca. I'm 20 years old, and I'm working on a double major in Secondary Education and Mathematics! I really love blogging and playing video games with my friends. I'm also very passionate about fighting for women's rights and the rights of the LGBT community.

I was born here in Mobile, and I've lived in Theodore most of my life. For a year and a half, I moved to Hartselle, Alabama to finish up high school. During that time, I was busy trying to decide which university I wanted to attend. After a lot of thinking and researching, I finally decided I would move back to my hometown and attend the University of South Alabama! I was fortunate enough to be offered a Presidential scholarship, which I gratefully accepted.

I was raised by my loving grandparents, but I was fortunate that my mother also lived with us. Throughout my schooling, my grandparents were always very supportive of me and very involved in my education. They pushed me to strive to do my best in every subject, and for that, I am very grateful. I probably would not be where I am today if they had not have been so supportive and involved. However, not every child is fortunate enough to have such involved parents like I did, and that is one of the big reasons why I want to enter the field of education. I want to help children do their very best, even if they don't have parents or guardians that are involved in their education.

My Future Classroom

It's normal to hear children complain about school, but far too often have I heard children say they hate school. Once upon a time, I, too, disliked school, but I'm fairly sure most of us did at some point. Why is it that a lot of children dislike school? Some of them may dislike it because of the environment, which some relate to a prison. Other children may dislike it because of all the testing that is required of them. When I begin my teaching career, although I probably cannot avoid the testing issue, I hope to help children change their negative attitude about school and show them that school can and should be a fun learning environment.

When I become a high school math teacher, I plan to convey to my students that math isn't something to fear, and it can be fun when you understand it. I plan on using interactive methods of teaching to get the students more involved. For instance, I will write problems on the board and ask students to come up and solve it while explaining aloud to the rest of the class how they arrived at their answer. I think this will help students build confidence and good self-esteem. I also would like to place my students into groups to work on math problems together. Such groups will allow the students to learn how to work and connect with other people, and it will also encourage peer teaching and studying. For instance, if a student has trouble understanding a concept, another student in his or her group could help explain the concept in a way the student better understands.

In my classroom, I would like to use SMART board technology. With a SMART board, my students can play interactive math games on websites like Sheppard Software, which will improve their math skills while they have fun! I would also like to start a mathematics club in the school, if there isn't one already, that is open to all students who are interested in math or just want to improve their skills. If enough students express interest in it, I would like to form teams that can compete with each other within the school. I believe a little healthy competition will give students more opportunities to practice their skills in a fun environment.

Lastly, when I begin my teaching career, I will make sure my students know that I am always open and willing to help them improve their skills. I don't want my students to be afraid to come talk to me when they need help, and I want them to understand that they should never feel ashamed of asking for help. Everyone learns differently. Some students can understand a concept the first time it is taught to them. Others may need a little extra help, and that's okay! I think that is something that needs to be stressed by every teacher of every subject!

Randy Pausch on Time Management

From watching Randy Pausch's video on time management, I've realized that I never really focused on why something was on my to-do list. I knew that I had something I needed or wanted to do, but I never asked myself why. I have so many things on my mental to-do list, a lot of which are on there because they are required for my education. The others are there because they would provide me with entertainment or knowledge. Naturally, I focus more on the things I have to do for school because they are much more important. If I don't allocate my primary attention on those things which are essential for my success in school, well, I won't be very successful now, will I?

Another thing I've realized is that whenever I start something, whether it be homework, household chores, or a project, I always put a lot of focus into doing it right. Sometimes, being so obsessed with doing it right puts me behind in my work, and when I realize I've been putting all that work into the wrong thing, I get frustrated. So I need to learn to better determine which things are more important than others. I also need to work on planning things better. I've gotten better about it since I started college, but my planning skills still need some improvement. Randy Pausch emphasized that you don't need to worry about changing plans. You just need something to start with, like a tentative schedule. He stressed that your plans are most likely going to change, and that that's okay. You just can't make any changes to your plan if you don't have one in the first place. This is why I'm so glad we have a master checklist for each student in EDM 310. It will help me keep track of everything I need to do for this course and tell me when each assignment is due. Hopefully, using it for this course will help me gain the ability to better manage my time in the future.