Monthly Archives: January 2009

Process, Process, Process

My tech support person reminded me of the role of the media specialist as a person who should be teaching the “process.”  I knew this but somehow the importance of the idea didn’t really hit home until now.

Classroom teachers are most concerned with the final product.  Does the poster illustrate concise information?  Do the sentences in a report make sense?  Is the paper well organized?

Media specialists need to be most concerned with the PROCESS.  What are the keywords a student is using?  Those keywords can be the basis for a poster.  Where does a student need to look in order to have correct information so the report makes sense?  What are the questions the student was trying to answer?  If the questions are well done, information will be easier to find and the paper will be better organized.

Of course, classroom teachers also teach process but it seems that they are overwhelmed with the content they are trying to get across and they don’t have time to think as much about the process.  They don’t always know all the steps of the process.  Media specialists have to help with this and the best way to do it is through some form of collaboration.

The media specialist doesn’t have to be involved every day, in every way.  In the beginning it’s important to get students off on the right foot with good keywords, good questions, and a search plan.  Where will they look 1st, 2nd, etc.?  Once they start on the actual product the media specialist work is largely over unless they need help for a bibliography.

This idea of teaching process applies to technology as well.  If a media specialist can help students to be comfortable and knowledgeable about the technology they are using they will be better able to grasp the content that classroom teachers are presenting.  To that end, I’ve been thinking about what sorts of instruction I can integrate into my classroom to help students be more proficient on the computers.

Media specialists have to decide that a large part of any lesson needs to involve some form of process.  I can let them turn on and log in to a computer every time they need to use it, using they’re name and password so that they know it well when they have to use them in the classroom.  I can have them do screencasts explaining how to best use various options available on the catalog so they know how to efficiently search the catalog for a report.  I can have them write book reviews in a blog or wiki so they know how to use these Web 2.0 tools when a classroom teacher is considering using them.

I’m sure I’ll think of more examples if I can only remember that my objective is to teach the process.

Why do I need a PLN?

I’m not sure I get it.  I understand the concept, I think.  Everyone learns different things at different times from different places.  It seems to me that calling this phenomenon a network is nothing more than consciously noting that it takes place.  We can give it physical form by drawing lines on a graph but I don’t see the point.  Why do these networks matter?

In his blog post barcamping on plymouth rock Scott Schwister discusses PLNs as a disruptive innovation but I don’t understand the importance he places on this phenomenon.  It seems to me that innovations such as this are so new and so fast moving that they’re hard to pin down.  How do we even know that PLNs are a good thing?

Would students benefit from PLNs?  Are they like IEPs?  Who decides what the PLN should look like?  If it’s the student’s decision, at what point in their education are they capable of making such decisions?  What is the teacher’s role in PLNs?  One thing is clear, as long as there are high stakes, standards based tests, teachers and students will have little flexibility in determining individualized learning plans.

I wonder if this is a bad thing.  Are there things that we learn in school that we don’t use?  Certainly.  Does that mean it was a bad thing to learn it?  I would argue that every single thing we learn contributes to our personal health and well-being.  I would further argue that it also contributes to the community around us.  The very depth of our civilization is affected by the depth of our knowledge.  Would students choose to ignore certain historical periods because they’re boring?  Would students opt not to study Shakespeare because the language is too arcane to understand?  Will cultural distinctions fade if students choose to embrace a world culture and abandon the one in which they were born?  Can we assume that as students learn they will naturally seek out a rich diversity of knowledge and experience?

The more we learn, the richer our lives, and the deeper our understanding of the concept of life and what it means to be human.  Where did I learn that and how do I put it in my PLN?

It’s FAKE!!

Last week my second and third grade students were evaluating animal websites.  They were analyzing 3 different sites to see if the information was readable.  Were the pictures labeled; did the links work; did the page load quickly?  I think one of the hardest aspects of a site to evaluate is the author.  In some cases we could find very little about the author or the information was difficult to find.  In some cases there was no good way to contact an author.  Even for an adult, determining whether an author is an authority on a subject can be difficult.

This week I will show them some fake websites.  I have to admit that I had great fun looking at the sites.  Some of them are hilarious.  However, some of them look so credible that you’re not really 100% sure if they really are hoaxes.  How do we tell that a website is a hoax?  Yes, I know that there are any number of things that we can tell students, even if only the very basic things my second and third graders are looking for.  I still wonder how we, as adults, usually recognize a fake.  It seems to me that so much of it is dependent on prior knowledge or common sense.  When does a child acquire common sense?  Is it something that slowly leaks in with experience or is it something we can actually teach?

For anyone interested in showing their students some of these sites, or just exploring them yourself, they’re quite easy to find.  A simple google search “fake websites” will give good results.  I found Bogus Websites, developed by The Department of Education and Training in Western Australia, to be particularly helpful with websites and curriculum ideas.  The links supplied include a rating on their believability and whether or not they are appropriate for children.  Another helpful site was Technology Tip Number 124: The Bogus Internet, an interesting place to find those little tips that make using technology easier.  These are both good places to find links to other sites.  They both give hints as to what to look for when evaluating the sites.

Browser Dilemma

There are good things and bad things about the two browsers that I’m most familiar with.  I’ve used Internet Explorer since I first started going online and I’m comfortable with it.  Most sites are written for IE so there aren’t many issues with compatibility.  The problem I’m having is with slow page downloads and sometimes it just crashes.  Today I was trying to update a page on my website when I got the blank screen of death after about 15 minutes of work.  I didn’t really have 15 minutes to waste so it was rather frustrating.  I’m not sure what the problem is but I think it’s associated with some annoying tracking cookies.  On my home computer I started inspecting the cookies and I block the ones that I’ve learned could cause trouble.  Generally the site I’m on still works just fine but it makes browsing such a chore to have to view all those cookies.  In the end I’m probably taking more time to view them than I would to just wait for them to download.  However, I have managed to get some sites to run much quicker.

So, I’m forced to look more closely at Firefox.  There are some things I really like, such as the quick load times for most pages and when a new site opens a new tab instead of a new window.  I know I can do that on IE too but you have to hit ctrl to do it.  I also LOVE the feature that returns you to the page you were working on if the browser crashes.  That has saved me more than once when putting up a complicated post on a forum I frequent. Unfortunately, Firefox is not the answer to all my prayers.  It’s mortal slow to open up.  I actually can’t edit the pages on my website on Firefox, although they can be viewed just fine.  While I will work on a complicated post in Firefox, I copy it and post it in Internet Explorer because Firefox makes changes to the post that I do not like.  I’ve had trouble printing from Firefox where only part of what I wanted to print would actually come out and some of that was jumbled up with script on the bottom of the page.

I have some friends who are Firefox fanatics who think that everyone should have changed over to it long ago.  I guess my solution will be to become a dual user.  I’ll use Firefox when I can and Internet Explorer when I have to.  I wish it was the other way around though.

Look at that, two rants in a row.  I’ll have to think happy thoughts before my next post.  Oh, and, if you see any of those blue links on odd words just ignore them.  Don’t use them.  You’ll just encourage their obnoxious use.