Sunday, 7 August 2011

EduBlog review number five

Edublog review number five

 The blog is titled The Power of Educational Technology and it was created by Liz Davis.  Liz is the director of academic technology at Bellmont Hill school outside of Boston.  This is an independent school for boys grades 7-12.  I wonder if this being an all boys school, how much traditional gender stereotypes come in to play especially with the use of hands on tools by way of technology. 

 The blog itself is neatly organized and easy to read.  I wasn't to impressed with Liz's posts in general, they were often short but usually served the purpose.  I was impressed with the external links, the category links, and the 'blog rolls'.  It seems like everything and anything is within a click of a mouse.  There are ridiculous amounts of links to blogs from other bloggers dealing with education which shows the power of sharing and collaboration.  Most subject matter is either linked to a keyword from wiki to laptop, which makes it easy to research or check previous posts.  Liz even goes as far to recommend books she is reading and there are a few good titles both for business and pleasure.

 I was reading some of the top posts on the site and there are some informative 'rants' we'll call them that do make a lot of sense (stop beating up on teachers for example).  The post about Social Media is a pretty good one.  It informs parents of the dangers but also the positives involved with this software.  It would appear that Liz is very active in her profession and sits on many committee's and has several conferences she either attends or hosts.  her Blog is merely the vehicle to get the word out. She seems like she is a dedicated teacher and she is proud of her profession.  She is passionate and not afraid of change.  In fact she embraces it makes both parents and students feel comfortable with it.

 Liz even has a post on 10 tips to help you blog.  It is pretty basic but very relevant.  She has a wealth of knowledge and shares a lot of it through her blog.  Her experience is not  limited to American ideals or egocentric minds often associated with the US.  In fact she has gone to Shanghai and attended an educational conference which she states was very beneficial.  These are ideas that all teachers can use and promote in their schools.  It is not thrown in your face but most of her ideas are mere suggestions of what works and how to use it.     

Thursday, 4 August 2011

EDU Blog review number four

The author of this blog, Jeri Hurd, has created an interesting blog linking an interest in teaching English, running a library and integrating technology.  She started in 2007 and has consistently updated.  Of course this interested me since I am trying to integrate technology into my library teaching and also have taken on a new role the past couple of years teaching middle school English and Social Studies. 

The post on the home page is “It’s Time to Get Seriously Angry” which piqued my curiosity and also made me jump to conclusions that this is a more political blog.  It turns out that she usually reserves her political commentary to her facebook but was really worked up about Illinois dropping the writing part of their standardized test.  She advocates political action.  I spent a long time perusing the blog.  Her info page indicates that she is an American although some posts show her to be in Mongolia.  I found that a little bit confusing.  Navigating the blog is not super easy as the Home Page is pretty convoluted.  However, that is because there is just so much she shares.

That said, there are several things on this blog that were great.  If you teach high school, there is a neat project with rubrics on “Animoto book trailers” and also on “creating a documentary”.  She seems to work with scripts and story boards which I think is very engaging for students.  She wrote an interesting post on Assessment which the crux was that teachers who assess get respect.  She provides several assessment tools as well.  She recommends pros and cons of several programs and lesson plans.  One to note is Common Sense Media with several lesson plans for each grade about how to protect their reputation in a digital world and exploring their identity.  I bookmarked this to explore later.  She also has an app called “goodreads” including Global Achievement Gap, Teaching Digital Generation which is an interesting sharing tool.  She also shared eschool news which updates Technology News for Today’s K20 Educator.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Blog review number 3

I came across this blog by chance and really lucked out.  The reason I say this is because on the discussion board of our AQ course we have been talking about integrating technology in the classroom.  As educators we walk a fine line in merely letting the students run wild or actually teaching them how to use and excel with the technology that is being used.  I was struck by a couple videos in this blog that discuss a program designed to get every student to have their own laptop.  Would they use this as a 'toy' so to speak or would they actually benefit and learn while using it.  The obvious stepping stone is the funding but it is great to see the students tell the public how they use it and how they are improving. 

The blog itself is called Dangerously Irrelevant ( and it is written by Scott McLeod.  He is an associate professor in Educational Leadership at the University of Kentucky.  He is also the founding director of the UCEA Centre for the Advancement of Technology Leadership in Education. This is the US' only academic center dedicated to the technology needs of school administrators, and he is co-creator of the wildly popular video series,  Did You Know and Shift Happens.  Scott uses his position to create awareness about integrating technology in the classroom.  He is well known throughout his home state of Iowa and gaining recognition on the national stage. 

His big emphasis is to let eduactors know that computers are no longer used as just word processors.  With technology kids are using higher level thinking skills and able to problem solve many different ways.  There is also evidence to show kids gain more confidence behind their computer screen and then transfer that into group discussions.  Classrooms in many parts of the world are so technology based now that kids are saying they are not sure what they want to do when they grow up because those jobs have not even been created yet.
Here are some compelling points from Scott himself:
More important than the economic concerns, however, is that digital technologies also allow for dramatic impacts on learning. For example, students and educators now have access to all of the information in their textbooks – and an incredible wealth of primary documents – for free. They have access to robust, low cost or no-cost, multimedia and interactive learning resources - texts, images, audio, video, games, simulations - that can supplement, extend, or even replace what is being taught in their classrooms. Via collaborative Internet-based tools, they can learn from and with students and teachers in other states or countries. They also can quickly and easily connect with authors, artists, business professionals, entrepreneurs, physicians, craftsmen, professors, and other experts.
Students and teachers now can more authentically replicate (and actually do) real-world work through the use of the same tools and resources used by engineers, designers, scientists, accountants, and a multitude of other professionals and artisans. They can share their own knowledge, skills, and expertise with people all over the world. They can find or form communities of interest around topics for which they are passionate and they can be active (and valued) contributors to the world’s information commons, both individually and collaboratively with others.
Essentially, our students and teachers now have the ability to learn about whatever they want, from whomever they want, whenever and wherever they want, and they also can contribute to this learning environment for the benefit of others.

Mr. McLeod is really passionate in his blogging about the use of technology in the classroom and how it is the wave of the future.  In other words it is not going away.  He has several posts with convincing arguments and examples of technology that the average teacher should be able to handle as well as those for more advanced users.

The site itself is very easy to navigate, clean and hardly any distractions with regards to advertising.  There are links and easy to find archives listing a variety of different topics.  There are a few acronyms thrown out there that you really have to research and there are times where he assumes the reader knows what he is talking about.  All in all it is an interesting blog for any educator and parent.

To end the review I would like to share some of Scott's points on integrating technology.

If we were REALLY serious about educational technology, we would do things like…
  • put a robust digital learning device into every student’s hands (or let them bring and use their own) instead of pretending that we live in a pencil, notebook paper, and ring binder world;
  • we'd teach students how to properly maintain and manage those computing devices rather than removing user privileges and locking down the ability to change any settings;
  • we'd show students how to edit their privacy settings and use groups in their social networks instead of banning those networks because they’re ‘dangerous’ and/or ‘frivolous’;
  • we'd teach students to understand and contribute to the online information commons rather than ‘just saying no’ to Wikipedia;
  • we'd understand the true risk of students encountering online predators and make policy accordingly instead of succumbing to scare tactics by the media, politicians, law enforcement, computer security vendors, and others;
  • we'd find out the exact percentage of our schools’ families that don’t have broadband Internet access at home rather than treating the amorphous ‘digital divide’ as a reason not to assign any homework that involves use of the Internet;
  • we'd treat seriously and own personally the task of becoming proficient with the digital tools that are transforming everything instead of nonchalantly chuckling about how little we as educators know about computers;
  • we'd recognize the power and potential (and limitations) of online learning rather than blithely assuming that it can’t be as good as face-to-face instruction;
  • we'd tap into and utilize the technological interest and knowledge of students instead of pretending that they have nothing to contribute;
  • we'd integrate digital learning and teaching tools into subject-specific preservice methods courses rather than marginalizing instructional technology as a separate course;
  • we'd better educate and train school administrators rather than continuing to turn out new leaders that know virtually nothing about creating, facilitating, and/or sustaining 21st century learning environments;
  • And so on...

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

EduBlog Review Two

A Welsh educator Bev Evans blogs primarily about inclusion and integrating technology into the primary/junior classroom. She has been very dedicated to this blog for a couple of years. Although there are a few typos or gramatical errors, the content makes up for these flaws.

She was shortlisted for the Education Blog Awards 2011, Teacher Blog of the Year. I actually found her blog more relevant than the winner. She includes reviews and tutorials on several free and some great but not so free resources. In some cases, she includes video feeds of presentations she has done featuring one recent one from a conference that in detail shows how several websites, apps and software packages work and their application to create an inclusive classroom.

I am excited to check out several of those featured. I also was surprised that the blog branched out to using technology in several different strands.  I find often that the author has a focus on a certain subject and 99 percent of the time it is literacy based or the odd time there is some math thrown in.  However, she dedicates several blog entries to music, science etc. I am not sure what "Bev's Waffle" means so there is a minor cultural divide! There are some acronyms that I also do not follow, but I dare say an Ontario blog talking about DRA, ALP's, IEP's etc. would read the same. Bev is obviously a passionate educator and there is a lot to learn on her blog. Exploring several edu blogs really makes me long for an IPad in my classroom...or two.

There are a ridiculous amount of links at the bottom of this Blog/page that are very useful.  It is encouraging to see Bev has tried and had some success with a lot of the things she has demonstrated on her Blog.

EduBlog review One

I got a little bit excited as I navigated the site It seems like a blog with it's format and updating, although it does not have 'blog' in the address. So perhaps those of you more versed in the area can weigh in! The title is Apps for Children with Special Needs. It is a comprehensive blog aimed at caregivers and educators about the merits of different apps aimed at children with special needs.

There are videos demonstrating exactly HOW to use each app. The narrators voice is recorded as he goes slowly through each of the apps, demonstrating how to use them. It allows the viewer insight as to whether or not this would be appropriate for their child. For example, there are pictures of several ebooks, you click on the one you are interested in and the video comes up with him exploring that ebook as he explains it to the reader. It is clear and well thought through.
Below the video there is a link to download it directly to Itunes. The author writes a blurb about the app including 'things to try', "unique features' and 'how the app works'. It also provides a detailed summary of who the technology would benefit e.g. "Reading app for children with dyslexia, LD, FASD, autism, slow readers, and other language based issues." It includes apps for toddlers up to graphic novels based at middle school students.

There is a contest for families in need to 'win' an IPad 2 for $199.00. I previewed this carefully and it seems authentic. There are ads on the page, although they clearly state that they will "not produce, publish or promote any App which we believe does not meet the standards expected or required by the community we serve." Again, I am not sure if it follows a blog format perfectly (although it has some elements) but it is a site worth sharing with educators and parents alike. It is an awesome use of integrated technology. This blog shows the vast opportunities to use technology like the ipad in the classroom. It is brilliant that you can see products in action before you buy.