Friday Night Lights

The lights I am referring to are the glow of my computer screen and my bedside light as I lay in bed, exhausted after a long week, trying to dedicate some time to my blogging.  Having just commented on another classmates blog, I realize that the idea of motivation via an audience of readers who take the time to comment is very real.  As I receive comments it makes me want to publish another post.  This reminds me about how important it is for our students to feel that their work is being viewed, whether that’s a blog post, a newspaper article, or a hand drawn comic strip.

I just want to make a couple comments about our lecture this week.  I found it to be extremely over my head, but eye-opening.  I had never heard of Genius Hour or Invent to Learn, but already I’ve had several conversations with colleagues about it, suggested to my husband (he’s also a teacher) that he watch our recording, and ordered Sylvia’s book.  I made a comment during our collaborate session about loving Lego and I’m not exaggerating when I say I might ask for some for Christmas.  As a kid I loved that feeling of “the sky’s the limit” and I still do.  During class on Tuesday my mind kept thinking of specific students who would be all over this, but I think it’s also important to recognize the benefits for the students who may struggle with the open format.  One of my goals while I’m on maternity leave starting at Christmas is going to be putting a Maker box together.  Not only do I think this will be awesome in the classroom, but I am definitely going to try and make conductive dough for myself and my kids to play with.  The conductive paint also peeked my interest.  

Lastly, as I was watching Grey’s Anatomy last night and they were discussing the possibility of 3D printing portal veins as research.  I immediately made the connection to my learning Tuesday night.  Interesting how before this week I didn’t really know anything about these new technologies and ways of teaching, and now I recognize the movement everywhere.  I agree with Sylvia, how she said that 3D printing may be the next big invention that changes the world as we know it.  

I hope everyone has a great weekend blogging, tweeting, googling, reading, making, etc.

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MOOC Dropout?

I want to start by thanking those of you that have commented on one of my posts.  I really appreciate the feedback and the words of encouragement.  It really does make it feel like a community of support.  I felt less alone after reading them.  I am very aware that it has been two weeks since my last entry and I mentioned I was going to blog more often…well, that didn’t happen.  I don’t know whether it’s the nature of the work in this class, my mental and physical state currently, or a combination that is making it so difficult for me to sit down and blog.  I have been making notes and comments during each of the live lectures about things that I want to say/write about and it just doesn’t get done.  So this time I’m going to keep it short and manageable and save another thought for another day (hopefully sooner).  

In my last blog I also mentioned that I had signed on to do a MOOC through Coursera about The History of the World Since 1300.  In the course outline it said there would be two, 50 minute lectures each week – manageable, right?  Well, those have started turning into hour and a half lectures twice a week.  That’s three hours of online lecture beyond the hour and a half every Tuesday evening.  I have been struggling to keep up.  However, I am really enjoying the content.  And funny enough, my brother and I were talking last weekend about MOOCs and discovered that we’re both signed on to that particular course.  Then last night I was reading my Twitter feed and came across something about being a MOOC dropout and I had a moment of clarity.  I wasn’t getting from this MOOC what I need to benefit from this eci831 assignment/expectation.  I was going through the motions, but was not fully participating and therefore what was I really getting from it.  Therefore, I have decided not exactly to “drop out” but to not put the emphasis on this course.  I guess this is a lesson in trial and error.  I still think it’s a fantastic way to learn something.  In fact, I showed my dad the coursera site tonight and explained MOOCs and he was all over it.  This came up because he mentioned how he wished we lived in a bigger center where he could take a personal interest class.  My new focus for my major project is going to be learning about smartboards and how to utilize it to benefit the learning of the students in my classroom and my teaching through technology.  I am very excited about this!  The timing couldn’t be more perfect.  As of right now I just have the cement showing where they cut our a piece of my whiteboards.  I can’t wait for the day when I don’t have to roll in the projector cart, unwind the cord to hook up the internet, etc.  I tweeted about getting a smartboard and asking for resources or cool tools and got some response.  If anyone else has any suggestions for a smartboard green thumb I would love your comments.  Anyway, I think that’s all for now.  

Incase you were wondering I learned the history of the world from 1300 to about mid 1700s.  I wonder if the lectures go away after the class is technically over or if I will be able to listen to them at another time.  I’m still very interested, but the priority level of that mooc did not merit three hours of my time.  

Thanks for reading.   

Adios Avoidance!

I am putting my avoidance and procrastination behind me and I’m going to attempt to write my third post.  I think the reason for my lack of sharing in the past couple weeks is because I’ve been feeling very overwhelmed.  Writing a post feels almost as daunting as the 70 RADs that are sitting on my kitchen table, waiting to be marked.  Not that I don’t enjoy writing, in fact I like the opportunity to stretch my writing skills, it’s just that I have so much to say and not quite sure how to say it.  I also think I haven’t totally invested in my digital persona.

I am really enjoying the class and the guest speakers, but there is just such a huge amount of information that it’s hard to take it all in.  I’m also finding it difficult to find the time to blog, tweet, google+, pin, etc.  However, having said that I have started following a variety of education related twitter feeds and I am getting so many awesome ideas and learning so much.  There are more interesting tweets related to education and implementing technology in the classroom than I ever would have imagined.  I am really enjoying being privy to this information, even if I don’t get to every single link.  @edudemic and @edutopia are two that I get a lot of informative links from.  I don’t know how people find the time to search out the articles and information, tweet it, as well as follow others and do everything else that is expected of us in this class.  I appreciate that others have blogged that they feel similarly; I’m finding comfort in the fact that I’m not alone.  Although I may not be tweeting hourly or even daily I do feel that I’ve come a long way from where I began.  I can say that I actually understand what a hashtag is now, where as before I didn’t have the faintest.  This apropos video that I retweeted made me laugh out loud, when before I would have been wondering what a # is the whole time.

Since I last posted about my frustration, you can probably see to the right, I got my Twitter feed working thanks to @suewaters.  I have overcome my first blogging frustration!  Another thing that I have undertaken is a MOOC via Princeton University on Coursera about The History of the World since 1300 (#learningproject).  I had been thinking about my major project and not making any decisions.  Finally I searched some MOOCs and found a few that interested me.  The reason I chose this one is because I think my understanding of history is fairly accurate, but I struggle with putting the pieces together.  And being a social studies teacher I feel that my understanding of historical events should be better.  This class posts two lectures every Sunday.  I was a little late getting into the class so I am a couple lectures behind, but am working on catching up.  So far I have learned about the Silk Roads, Ghengis Khan, the Black Death, the Ming Dynasty, and the Ottoman Empire.  There are also suggested readings, but I haven’t gotten to those yet, and as far as the assignments go, I don’t think I’m expected to do those (?).

My plan for conquering this blog from here on out is to write shorter blogs more often so that my thoughts don’t pile up, making it more of an undertaking.  Ok, I think that’s all for now.  I have managed to take one bite out of this intimidating elephant.

Frustration!!!

After tonight’s class I realized that although I had installed the Twitter widget on my blog, it wasn’t working correctly because I didn’t embed the code properly.  So, I have tried about 15 times now to create a widget with my Twitter and add the id to my blog, it continues to tell me “Error 403…” – whatever that means.  I have no idea what I’ve done wrong.  Perhaps this is a case where I just need to let it be for the night, go to bed, and try again in the morning.  I am completely at a loss.  To be honest, this is my one of the issues I have with technology…I get easily frustrated when I can’t figure something out and I find that this happens quite frequently.  I’m not sure if anyone else is having this difficulty and can help me out or maybe you can just relate to feeling frustrated and send me some positive vibes for my Twitter widget to work tomorrow.  Thanks for listening.

The Journey Begins…

My daughter is in bed and after nearly a week of trying to wrap my head around what this class is going to look like and what I want to say in my first blog, I’m going to give it a try.

My name is Stephanie Wiens.  This is my tenth class enrolled as a Ed.Psych. practicum route grad student.  I have been slowly hacking away at this Masters since 2009.  I took some time off when I had my daughter, Emmerson, and since moving to Swift Current it has been more difficult to take classes.  One thing that is very important to me is travelling.  I love New York City and am always planning my next trip.  When I was there last November I had the opportunity to see the 9/11 Memorial.  It was awe inspiring!  I thought I would include a picture because I thought these pools were amazing.  The coolest part is that you can’t see the bottom.  I think they actually referred to them as “voids”.  In a way this idea of an infinite, never-ending void is how I feel about social media; I feel very overwhelmed and afraid of never getting to the root of it.

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I teach Grade 8 ELA and Social at O.M. Irwin Middle School in Swift Current.  This is my eighth year of teaching and many days make me feel like it’s still my first year.  I love working with middle school students.  They seem to have their finger on the pulse and more often than not I feel that I’m letting them down with my lack of technology use within the classroom.  They’re shocked when they see that I have an iPhone.  Within the classroom I use technology to set my lessons often via youtube.  Using technology to facilitate and elevate my students’ learning is not something I am competent in.  I would like to say that it is somewhat annoying when anytime I want to use the internet to project something in my classroom I have to roll in a cart, unwind the cord that connects me to the internet, etc.  And did I mention how slow our connection is…it’s a giant pain in the butt.  Also, we have a school population of nearly 300 students and we have two computer labs with 30 desktops a piece that is booked days, weeks and sometimes months in advance.  This environment is not conducive to out-of-the-box thinking.

My current level of technological competence is pretty basic for 2013; I have dabbled in many, but mastered none.  The last blog I wrote was one I started in an undergrad class I took from Alec.  I blogged about my backpacking adventures through Europe seven years ago (http://www.europesolo.blogspot.ca).  I can’t believe that it’s still up there for anyone to read.  I have a Pinterest account, but do not use it to its potential.  I love Instagram, but mostly because I love photography.  I use youtube for work and for pleasure.  My Facebook account is used mainly to keep in touch with a select few friends and see photographic evidence of their life transpiring while mine is also busy flying by.  I have watched a few TED talks, but not as many as my brother has suggested I watch.  Google docs was an awesome tool for the group work I had to do in my last online class.  Lastly, Twitter was the one social media that I was definitely trying to avoid.  Not so much because I have a problem with it, but more because it scares me and I don’t really get how to use it efficiently and purposefully.  This is one of the things I am most excited to learn in this class is how to use Twitter to enhance my life and not add one more thing that I’m not checking or updating regularly enough.

I want to learn how to make social media a manageable part of my personal and professional life.  To be perfectly honest, as this week has gone by and I’ve been seeing everyone post and blog and twitter about articles, surveys, videos, etc. I have been wondering where everyone finds the time to find these useful pieces of information.  I know that this is without a doubt the direction in which my teaching needs to go, I’m just not sure how to make it reality.  My students salivate when they see me rolling in the projector cart, so I can only imagine how they would feel about some of these other amazing ways to use technology within the classroom.  I strive everyday to be awesome for my students and to inspire them to be awesome because in the words of KidPresident “We were made to be awesome.”