Webquest: Blog 1 Week 5

     For my final project for ED 620, I am submitting a webquest I have been working on. To me webquest have always been sort of like internet scavenger hunts. One major difference is that usually they submerge students into a project using a real life scenario. Both internet scavenger hunts and webquests definitely have their place. Here are some great webquest resources to check out:

Should I Friend my Students?

In ED 620 we have been talking a lot about great online tools, including blogs like this, to reach our students, colleagues, and even students’ parents. While reading the news online yesterday, an article about a school in Missouri caught my eye:


Basically the article explains how a district is creating a policy to stop teachers and students from interacting on online platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, etc.

On a collegiate level, I don’t see any reason why students and teachers cannot “friend” each other or communicate outside of class. Adults have many more freedoms than kids, and that is okay. On a public school level, I can see many reasons that it could blur some boundaries. To me, Facebook is a no brainer. Because it is a social site, meant for social interaction, I have not allowed students to “friend” me. I am not their friends in real life; I am their teacher. I enjoy this teacher’s video about this boundary:

Still, while I don’t add students to Facebook, blogs and Twitter pages that are created specifically for educational purposes (homework help, collaborations) are okay with me. Unfortunately, the Missouri school’s policy blocks all of those too.

This isn’t a new topic. When I googled I found tons of articles devoted to this dilemma. Even Facebook has a group dedicated to this discussion. I can see the need for schools to have access to passwords and login information if a site is created for school use. Truly, if I am creating a blog that is legitimately for school purposes, this should be no problem to provide administrative access to my principal or superintendent. While this topic needs to be discussed and boundaries created, I would hate to see all districts adopt polices forbidding online communication out of fear. I think it goes back to idea that anything, including a pencil, if misused can become dangerous. That doesn’t mean we stopped using pencils and we shouldn’t stop using online tools to reach our students.

Digital Divide: Ditching Classroom Printers

I have been really enjoying all of our projects for ED 620 and have been really trying to think of ways to incorporate many of them into my classroom next year. Most of the projects we have explored can be turned in digitally, which is great. One place I am a little hesitant on accepting digital assignments is in student essays.

Part of my concerns, when it comes to accepting digital documents, is editing. I am not sure if this is an adapting thing that I have just not grown accustomed to or if it really is easier for students and me to edit mistakes when they are on real paper in front of us.   I am not even sure if it something I have picked up, as far as skimming rather than reading carefully when things are online. Regardless, many teachers still require printed documents. This brings me to my overall concern: the movement in schools, including my district, to remove classroom printers.


Now, in the defense of school budgets everywhere, I completely understand the need to cut back on frivolous printing. Still, for students that need a place to print what other options do they have? In our district the digital divide can sometimes be painful for students’ grades. Often, students have come to me to print because teachers that assign the projects require them to print them at home, but their home does not have electricity… let alone a printer. Has anyone else gone through the “classroom printer removal” process? If so, how has it impacted those students without the means to print? As a teacher, what can I do to make the transition smoother for my students and myself?

Universities have commonly gone with the pay-to-print plan, but with public schools that does not seem to be a realistic option.

Interesting Technology Advancement Videos

The creators of the “Did You Know” videos put out new videos every couple of years. I think they are very interesting and when my students have watched them they really enjoyed them. If nothing else, they really show how much technology is infiltrating our world and how important it is to keep our students (and ourselves) on top of technology.


Not to mention, I find it super interesting to see how much we have advanced and how quickly.  Sites like http://gcn.com/articles/2007/12/06/25-years–a-technology-timeline.aspx and http://inventors.about.com/od/timelines/a/twentieth.htm give a pretty good list of advancements, but the videos are more appealing to students. This might not be a bad idea to incorporate into an internet scavenger hunt for students or teachers to appreciate the need for forward movement.


Video Conferences

In my website of the week this week I feature the website http://projects.twice.cc/ or Collaborations Around the Planet.  I have used this site to conference with author Jim Stovall, and my students loved it! A big hang-up a lot of my peers have with video conferencing is a general fear of the equipment itself. Often times our tech department will drop off the equipment or expect you to come pick it up, but generally they do not plan on hooking it up.  If you have never used a Polycom unit or something like it, they are great! I have attached a short video on how to set up a unit before a conference.  It is really not that much harder than hooking up a DVD player. Like http://www.skype.com/intl/en-us/home, using a Polycom unit is just like making a phone call, but allows you to see the person on the other end. These units are great for whole-class conferences. This site http://www.d261.k12.id.us/VCing/ gives all kinds of pointers on how to successfully incorporate a conference into your classroom. I always tell my peers, if you do set it up wrong the worst thing that could happen is that you have to reschedule. In the future, I think a great professional development activity in our district would be to have teachers setup the equipment themselves and call another unit in our school for practice, just to help with comfort. Anyway, if you haven’t used a video conference, check them out!

In with the New… and the Old?

In looking for a topic to blog about this week, I came across this post http://www.ncte.org/press/21stcentwriting about teaching students to write in the digital age. This is especially interesting to me as an English teacher. I found that this article stresses to teach students the new ways of communicating, such as blogs, emails, social networking etc. I found myself wondering, “Does this mean old-school grammar and 5 paragraph essays are out?” The short answer is no. The more I read the more convinced I am that we need to be teaching both. I came across these sites, among many others, that stress the need to teach “old” grammar skills(even in the digital age):

What it all comes down to is teaching our students code-switching. Code-switching means being able to switch between language usage based on the situation at had. Students should not feel stifled by old grammar rules, but rather know when it is necessary to apply them and when they can use text lingo freely. Check out this video on code-switching:

Twitter: Another Look

Okay, so after reading Laura’s blog http://lking620masters.wordpress.com/2011/07/19/twitter/ and finding myself also not sure of how Twitter could be worthwhile, I decided to do some browsing to see how other educators are using it. I found this awesome website with a TON of information: http://edudemic.com/2010/06/the-ultimate-twitter-guidebook/ .

Some of the coolest ideas that caught my interest were using Twitter for things like:

  • Collaborating with other teachers, since we all know a common planning time is non-existent
  • Taking polls with students or for classroom contests
  • Daily summaries for parents and students
  • Homework help for students in my class
  • “twittories” a way to create a giant story where each user adds a line

I would be lying if I said that I am rushing out today to post my Twitter link to my school website, but I am definitely considering ways it could be beneficial in my classroom.