Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Flat Classroom Final Write-Up

Throughout the semester I participated as an expert advisor, and a judge for the Flat Classroom Project. I also had to create a Ning for the Flat Classroom Project, which allows further collaboration for the FCP.

Before becoming a part of the FCP, I watched Thomas Friedman's video about the world being flat. It fascinated me. What I found so interesting is how global our world has become. It's just amazing the things we can do now that we couldn't do before. I liked the part about steroids the most because it's so true. Virtual Communication is what is making globalization possible. It offers real time collaboration between anyone at anytime. As far as it preparing me for the FCP, it did not. I guess I didn't realize that the projects in the FCP would directly correlate with Friedman's work. I guess I was under the assumption that the students would be working on something completely unrelated having Friedman's flattners in mind.

The first thing I did was become an expert advisor for group 6, Outsourcing and Globalization. As far as I knew my job was to observe the students' work and critique the errors that I found in hopes that they would take my instruction into consideration. Unfortunately, they didn't. I guess I don't understand why they have expert advisors for this project because I felt like I was repeating myself each time I posted something in the discussion. I knew they were reading my comments, but the changes were never made. The types of things I kept suggesting were grammatical issues, verb tenses, and citing work. Hardly ever was the work cited. I just felt like I was kind of wasting my time because the students weren't taking what I had to say into consideration, so it got hard for me to get into it and check it regularly.

The next thing I did was become a judge for the FCP final videos. I understand that these are just high school students, but I did expect a little bit more from the videos. They were either really good and well executed, or they were evidence of last minute preparation. I found it hard to select even four videos I thought were good enough for judging. There were two that I really liked, and another two that were almost there, but lacked some effort. Overall, the judging experience was much much better than the advising experience because I finally got to see what they were working for. I enjoyed the judging part.

Thinking back on the FCP project I wish it were more organized. I felt like it was sort of all over the place in the fact that my group's wiki page had no structure. I felt like there wasn't a lot of collaboration going on, and each student involved was just putting new information anywhere on the page. I am still really confused about the purpose of the Ning, but at the same time I didn't try very hard to figure it out. It didn't seem like a very important part of the FCP. Collaboration through the wiki as an expert advisor would be the best way if the students would actually collaborate with us and taking our feedback into consideration.

If I were to be completely honest, I am a little disappointed in the FCP. Not because I don't think that it is a great thing because I do think it has a lot of potential. I'm disappointed because I didn't get anything out of it as an educator, and I don't feel like the high school students involved got much out of it either. Take a look at my group's page. You will see that there are a few things that are repeated, there are some grammatical errors, and some work isn't cited accurately. I'm not trying to say that the students involved didn't work hard because there is some really great work, for example section B, current news, included some fantastic images and research. Maybe I'm completely wrong, maybe the high school students had a great, meaningful experience. I sincerely hope they did. I guess I shouldn't assume they didn't, I don't know exactly how they get their research and collaborate with others. As for myself, I don't feel like I got the opportunity to benefit because the feedback I did give wasn't recognized. However, it was still an experience I am happy that I was a part of. It was worth it. It's neat to see what kinds of thing are possible in teaching today.

Like I said, I think the FCP has loads of potential. It will get there, and maybe my experience is much different than the other expert advisors. I am rooting for the FCP to keep improving. I think what they have started is going to have a ripple effect. Finally, teachers not only hear about the possibilities of globalizing education, but they can experience it. Overall, it was a nice experience and if I ever get the chance to do it again I will.

I chose to keep a written journal about the FCP. Whenever I would comment as an expert advisor I would jot down a few notes about what I observed, but even doing that became a struggle because I was only writing down the same things over and over again. It was a lot of voicing my frustration that the students weren't really listening to my advice. It's hard to take something seriously and really get into it when I felt like I wasn't really needed. So, if I were to be honest I don't have much of a journal to turn report to you. That doesn't mean that I didn't take it seriously, though. I hope that you are still able to see my efforts.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Second Life Tour

I recently created a tour using Second Life. I'll admit that it wasn't a very pleasant experience. It was really stressful trying to find ten places around a central theme. Originally I wanted to only do famous US landmarks, but could only find six. Instead of restarting I just added some other famous landmarks around the world. Here is where I traveled:

The Eiffel Tower
Rio de Janeiro
The Alamo
The Golden Gate Bridge
The Statue of Liberty
The Grand Canyon
Mount Rushmore
The St. Louis Arch
The Sistine Chapel
The Great Wall of China

Visit these locations and enjoy my Second Life Tour!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Raiding The SL Closet

I have experimented changing my appearance in SL before, and let me tell you - I hate it. It takes me about 3 times longer to get ready in SL than it does in real life. There are just so many things to choose from. Changing appearance in SL is a challenge for me because I can't seem to get it to look how I want it to. When I first started using SL I changed my facial and body features, which took FOREVER. In the end, though, I ended up pretty happy with the results. I tweaked most of my facial features like my nose, eyes, mouth, and ears. I also changed by hair color and gave myself some glasses. I didn't change my avatar's initial clothing because I really liked what he was already wearing.

Today I changed the outfit, hair, and exchanged the glasses for sunglasses. He looks ugly, but it was still getting me more used to knowing how to change the appearance of my avatar. As soon as I changed the appearance I went back to the original because I really like it. Just these simple changes took be forever. Yes, I was a little side tracked, but still changing appearances takes forever!!
The last thing I did was change my avatar completely. The original avatar had a ridiculous leather jacket on, so that had to go right away. The next thing I did was change the jeans to a darker color. I didn't change any of his facial features, but his clothes are quite different. Changing this new avatar's clothes didn't take as long, but it was still time consuming. Once I find an outfit and avatar that I really like I will stick with it!

Overall, once you get good at the navigation part about changing appearances it is quite easy and user friendly. One thing that I like is that you can play around with different combinations and then save an entire outfit. A word of caution, if you are perfectionist then editing your appearance can be quite overwhelming and stressful.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Taking Flight In Second Life

So, after my last post I have played around with second a little bit more. I found it to be a much better experience. My browser was working better and I finally learned how to get from one place to another. I also learned how to run and fly. I roamed around Iowa Island and found the UNI Campanile, an art gallery, and a covered bridge. After I saw the covered bridge I felt like I was in Iowa for sure.

The UNI Campanile
I am beginning to take a  liking to Second Life, even if it is a little bit frustrating at times. I always feel a little
weird while I am moving around in Second Life, but that is just because it's not familiar quite yet. I think the more I get to know the program the more at ease I will feel about using it. Like I said in my previous post I can see myself using this in my professional life, but I can't see myself using this for personal use. It just doesn't seem "fun" to me. Don't get me wrong, I think that it's an awesome concept. I just think that for me personally, it would be used as a meeting place for professional collaboration if anything. Overall, I am glad I'm getting used to (and learning) the basics of Second Life. I think that watching short video tutorials about how to take pictures, fly, run, and view is just what I need to learn it better.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Who Would You Be If You Had A Second Life?

Let me begin by saying that Second Life is stressful! The first time that I experimented with it I got extremely frustrated for three reasons:

1) My browser was sticking
2) I'm too much of a perfectionist
3) I wanted to be good at it right away

I spent almost an hour trying to get my outfit just right the first time I signed on to Second Life, which was a mistake. I was getting upset because I couldn't get myself to look how I wanted. On top of that my browser was STICKING!!! UGHH! The browser speed was what made me log off and not turn back to it until I absolutely had to. Lastly, I have a love/hate relationship with learning. I love learning new things, but not if they take me ages and ages to master. Second Life is going to take me ages and ages. It's a very complex program. I do think, though, if I do get the basics mastered that it could be really fun.

When Dr. Z gave us the opportunity to go sit with him while meeting in Second Life I knew I had to. I had to because I didn't understand it. I didn't really know how to teleport from place to place. My browser wasn't running very well, and I didn't get the overall purpose of Second Life. I must admit that after meeting in Second Life while physically being with someone who understood it, I kind of liked it. I wasn't getting frustrated anymore, and I was starting to look at it a little differently. The idea of holding a meeting with my classmates in a virtual world is kind of exciting. We met in Dr. Z's room, which had a table and if we wanted we could have all sat down and talked with each other. That is one of the coolest things I have ever heard of. A meeting without actually meeting. 

I could see myself using Second Life in the future to meet with other educators across the world for collaboration. Even though I'm not totally sure how to run it just yet I do believe that it is pretty user friendly. It's just one of those things that takes time to learn, but I think I am up for the challenge! Second Life offers a lot more than just being a game. It's a place for learning and collaboration to take place; it can either be used for personal use or professional use. While Second Life and I aren't totally on stable grounds quite yet I believe that one day it will happen. I still don't understand most of the basics, but at least I understand what Second Life is about, which is a step in the right direction. I would encourage everyone to try Second Life out. There's nothing lost in trying it. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Flat Classroom Project

Over the last several weeks I have been an expert advisor for the Flat Classroom Project. This was the first time I had ever worked with the FCP, and I have to say it wasn't what I was expecting. I can't imagine the amount of work that went into the creation of something so great. Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis have really constructed something remarkable. If I didn't believe that the world was flat before working on this project, I do now.

It was so neat to see students from across the globe working together to compile information, create videos, and create a site rich with information. The wiki space that I was a part of was about globalization and outsourcing, which actually ended up teaching me a thing or two about the subject. Every time I gave feedback about fixing grammar or using correct citations I saw my suggestions being made. It's so neat to think that the entire project is all done by using the internet. Students gathered their information from the internet, their photos, videos, and they got their feedback from collaborating over the internet. The world truly is flat, and this project has made that more apparent than ever.

However, I don't see how this could disrupt class.... KIDDING. No longer are confined to our classroom walls. Think of the possibilities the FCP has given us!! Students are learning how to collaborate with other students and teachers from entirely different backgrounds than their own. Think of how well equipped this generation of students is going to be in terms of social and people skills! Not to mention their computer skills. Students today are living through the new age of education. Education is global. What a great thing, too!

I am so happy that I was able to be a part of the FCP. I have gained a new perspective as a pre-service teacher, and I plan to continue my learning on global education. It has been an exciting thing to be a part of, and it was a true eye-opener.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pandemic 2

I am not a gamer whatsoever, but once I found this game I couldn't stop playing. I had to rely on my classmate's suggestions for gaming sites because I didn't have any experience gaming beforehand. I went Game Post in search for a game and found a game called Pandemic 2. I immediately became engrossed in the process of trying to spread a disease to wipe out the entire world population. The first couple of times I played I didn't get very far because I was still learning the game, but after a couple tries I almost killed all of the world's population.

I wouldn't say that I reached the flow completely, but I was very into the game. Like most games, there is immediate feedback. That is important for this game because as you go you accumulate points, which help you "buy" symptoms, transmission options, and resistance options. I will say that you must be patient to play this game, and you will not lose focus on what's happening around you, but it is still very engaging. There is no worry of failure because if your disease doesn't spread as you like then you can always try again. There are definitely clear goals to this game because from the beginning the player understands the goal is to wipe out the world population.

As I said before, this game really exercises your patients, and it also increases your awareness, and puts your strategy skills to work. This is a game of strategy and to win you must have the correct combinations of symptoms, transmission options, and resistance options. Luck also goes into it a little bit, too, because you don't get to choose your starting region. My roommate played a few rounds and one time she got Madagascar. Her disease didn't spread very quickly, but I got lucky and had Greenland as a starting region and almost wiped everyone out. 

Well, this game shouldn't be fun, but it is. The concept of killing everyone in the world hardly sounds ethical. The reason it's fun is because you get to play God in a sense. You determine how to spread the disease and every detail of the disease is in your hands. I've learned that if a person is put in a position of power where they decide every detail then they are bound to be engaged. I think this is very similar to the way people learn. Learners want to help develop their own instruction. They want to have a say in how they learn as well as the guidelines to learning it. As a teacher this will definitely be something that is helpful to know because I know that learners want to be a part of the journey, and who says they shouldn't be?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Flat World, Flat Classroom

Up until two weeks ago I had never heard of the Flat Classroom Project, or the FCP, so what better thing to do than jump into it blindly, right? It's been an exciting two weeks exploring this project, which is based off Thomas Friedman's work on the world's flatteners. After watching Friedman's 75 minute lecture, a video conference with Vicki Davis, and a little exploration on the FCP wiki, I became an expert advisor for students working on the topic of outsourcing. I haven't really had enough time to get my feet wet with this project just yet; but judging by what I have learned about it so far, I am certain that it will be a great learning experience for me. It's authentic learning opportunities like the FCP that get me excited to teach. With all the technological tools at my fingertips, creating memorable, collaborative, interesting, intriguing, and challenging lessons for my students has never been more doable. The FCP is a great opportunity to be involved with and I'm excited to get started!

Christensen's book, Disrupting Class, raises a serious question about standardizing teaching rather than customizing learning. We know that all students learn differently, so why standardize our assessments and lessons? A great way to customize learning is through project-based learning, which requires students to apply what they're learning and fill in the gaps of what they don't know through the experience. Christensen says, though, that many schools simply can't adopt widespread project-based learning because the physical layout of the school building won't allow it. This is where the FCP comes into play. This is a form of project-based learning, isn't it? It's done collaboratively, it causes students to apply the knowledge, and it's like the experience of traveling without leaving home. Through the FCP students are submerged in a diverse environment without physically being somewhere else. The FCP is definitely customizing learning rather than standardizing teaching. The technology behind it is exciting and fresh and should be taken advantage of by more educators.

Images: Flickr: Audaciousgloop

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The World Is... Flat?

I recently watched a lecture by Thomas Friedman about the world being flat. I have a mixed feeling about the world being flat. Educationally, I think that it is really exciting. It's mind-boggling to think about the opportunities we now have with education; however, it is a little bit frightening to think about what it could do to our economy. With the possibility of outsourcing American jobs our economy is only bound to worsen.

Educationally, the possibilities are endless. Our students can learn about other cultures through face time with students from different countries, students can work collaboratively on projects with students across the nation or across the world, and students can be better prepared for outsourcing in the workforce. 

Economically, this could take a turn for the worst for the United States. Outsourcing is very beneficial for large corporations because they can now find cheaper labor overseas. Considering our current economic status I don't think we can afford to outsource all of our jobs. What is neat, though, is that we have the possibility to outsource. But, does that mean we should?

The world being flat is definitely affecting me. Like is stated above, the possibilities for education are endless, but we should be careful not to take it too far. Learning about the world being flat gets me excited to teach more than anything.  It's new advancements and talk of opportunity such as this that make me certain that teaching is for me.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Let's Evaluate "Success"

From an early age I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to teach, and I wanted to teach young children.  I've always had a passion for helping people and I've always felt the need to be a leader.  Now, looking back now on all my accomplishments I realize how many times I failed. I am thankful, though, that I've never let that stop me from chasing what I was made to do. Too often people are intimidated by failure. It's the worst thing that can happen, right? Wrong, and this idea of failure got me thinking of success. How does one become successful? What or who determines whether or not you are successful?

I am currently a junior education major at the University of Northern Iowa, which has an excellent program for education. If I had to be honest, though, I have second guessed my ability to be an effective teacher countless times. I think that when you're talking about something you're extremely passionate about, like teaching, then at some point you're going to doubt your chances of success. That idea got me thinking, too. Everyone doubts their ability at some point. UNI is preparing me with an abundance of resources, rewarding field experiences, and challenging courses. Studying among some of the most intelligent, confident, and driven people I've met, it almost wouldn't be right not to assess my own abilities. One of the steps to success is failure.  It's going to happen at some point, but if teaching is something I've always wanted to do then how could I stop? I won't and I'm going to work hard to make it happen. I know that success can only be achieved if you work through the doubt, work through the failure, then make something of yourself. 

Check out this video by Richard St. John about the 8 secrets to success. 

Doesn't this inspire you? Doesn't this make you feel so much better about your chances of success? The key is that you can't be afraid to chase your dreams. Let your ideas be heard. Persist through failure. Challenge yourself, and accept challenges from others. Stay focused. And most of all, love what you do.

Melissa Kelly published a post on About.com sharing 6 keys of a successful teacher:

1. Have a sense of humor
2. Have a positive attitude
3. Set high expectations
4. Be consistent
5. Be fair
6. Be flexible

I would add a seventh, be passionate. If you love what you do then it isn't work!

Check out this video that I stumbled upon about what teachers make.

You see, to be a successful teacher it isn't about how much money you make. It's about having the passion, having the drive, having the desire to help other people succeed. Successful teachers are leaders who aren't interested in gaining more followers, but instead encouraging their students to become a leaders. I want to teach because to be successful all I have to do is be myself. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

You Can Make A Difference Too

Like a lot of people, I love watching TED talks.  Listening to these talks inspires me. One of my favorite TED talks is by Ken Robinson. In the video, Ken Robinson says Schools Kill Creativity, he makes a very daring statement. He says that schools are holding children back from their own creativity.  That doesn't seem right does it? It doesn't seem like a school could do such a thing, but in a way he is right. Children love to explore, create, and share their own ideas. Humans are creative by nature. Unfortunately, by the time children reach high school they are so afraid to be wrong because in today's school system "mistakes are the worst thing you can make." On the contrary, we know that mistakes are somewhat of a good thing. The human brain functions in a way that making mistakes is sometimes the best way to learn. Robinson goes on to say that the result of stigmatizing mistakes we are "educating people out of their creativity." As a future educator, I feel like it's my duty to see each child's creative capacity for all its worth and help them hold on to that to make sure their future is bright. After all, shouldn't teachers want what's best for their students?

Another very inspirational post that I came across last week was from Angela Maiers' Blog. A lot of you may have already seen this post, but it's called You Matter. Two very simple words that hold a very powerful meaning. If you haven't seen the video, you really should. It's about this idea that everyone has the desire to feel like they matter, and the truth is every single person on this Earth does matter. My favorite part in her video was the talk about her notebook. She carries around a notebook writing down anything good that she sees, which she sometimes shares later.  Soon, the students adopted that very same hobby. It's amazing to see and hear how powerful it can be just by telling someone that they matter. A kind act like that is contagious. She's got a great idea going and it's definitely something I will take with me into my personal and professional life.

I also came across a site called Thanks For Teaching Us on a blog that I was reading last week. Sadly, I can't remember who's blog it was and I couldn't find it today. However, this is such a great site and I encourage all of you to post something to this site if you've ever had a favorite teacher and you want to thank them! I was encouraged to post on it once I read Angela Maiers' You Matter post because I have had a couple of teachers who made me feel like I mattered. It made a huge difference in my life.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Google Gravity

For the past week I have spent some time organizing my iGoogle. Using iGoogle for my blogs makes it much easier to keep up with them.  Today, I was reading Jane Hart's blog when I came across her post on Google Gravity. To my understanding, Google Gravity is a experiment with HTML 5. HTML 5 will make it easier for web pages to display graphical content without having to download any additional plug-ins. HTML 5 is still under development as of September 2011. Playing around with Google Gravity got my excited to see more. I'm interesting in seeing what the internet experience will be once HTML 5 catches on more. Everyone should check out Google Gravity for themselves!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

How To Start A Movement

This is one of my favorite videos. The idea of starting a movement seems so simple, but here it is actually broken down into parts and analyzed. Enjoy!