Monday, July 30, 2012

Journal #7: My Personal Learning Network (PLN)

For those that don't know, a PLN, or a personal learning network, is a teacher's or student's network of sources, usually online, where peers are able to share ideas focused on a common interest. In my case, my goal is to become a history teacher , so I have tried to connect myself with other history teachers in order to access ideas about fun and inventive ways to present the material in class. In order to connect myself to some other teachers and students in the same position as me, I have used a few online tools. These tools include Twitter, Diggo, The Educator's PLN site, and Symbaloo. All of these sites are free to join, and make it possible for any individual to access an entire world of new ideas.

Probably the most useful tool out of all of these is Twitter. After joining Twitter, I was able to find numerous other history and social studies teachers who are continuously sharing their methods in the classroom, as well as interesting links to stories or websites about teaching. Twitter also makes it possible to follow in live conversations about education. For example, every Tuesday night at seven, there is an AP US history chat where history teachers will meet at to discuss a given topic. Last week, on the 25th of July at five in the afternoon, I participated in NT chat, which is a weekly chat for new teachers. During this chat, I mostly just followed what the others were talking about, but I also posted a few ideas of my own. The topic of the conservation was mostly about lesson planning, but did venture into other topics as well, such as adopting technology in the classroom and getting that first job.

Diigo is a social bookmarking tool, which allows you to easily post links on your homepage, which then allows others to go and see what links you have been saving. In this case, instead of following history teachers, I have sought out and followed teachers who are interested in incorporating social networking in the classroom. This was done in order to have different tools to go to when I want to look for different topics. Of course I could go to Diigo to search for history topics as well, but this makes it easier to know which site to go to in order to start. To broaden my PLN, I have also bookmarked Educational Wikis, Classroom 2.0, and Facebook in Education. All of these sites can be used to give me access to more information on using technology in the classroom.

By using the Educator's PLN site, I can view videos and blogs that other teachers have posted. On this site, I found a really cool use for a tool that I use every day. Skype, which I normally use to webcam my wife in Sweden, has a tool which allows classes from different countries to get together amd discuss certain topics. This could be great to learn first hand about other cultures, or do a language exchange with a class from Mexico.

Journal #6: "Ten Reasons to Get Rid of Homework ( and Five Alternatives)

Spencer, J. T. (2011, September 19). Ten reasons to get rid of homework (and five alternatives. Retrieved from 

Spencer's article articulates the growing sentiment that kids should not need to worry about doing homework when they get home. He points out that kids often have a lot of things to do when they get home, such as after school sports, dance lessons, debate team, or any number of activities that take up afternoons. Personally, I had days where I would have both soccer and basketball practice and wouldn't be home until after seven, in no mood to break open the math book. Spencer also presents the point that homework is unfair to kids who do not have have a stable home life. If you are a kid who needs to watch your brothers and sisters after school, because mom or dad is working late, it would be much harder for you to concentrate on your homework. 

Of course the counter point is that kids need to practice on their own what they learn at school. As a potential history teacher, I would like my students to have some background knowledge of the material before they come into class so we could have a discussion about it. My dad who is both a math teacher and tutor believes that the only way the students can truly master the material is to practice on their own.   

So what is the answer. Here are a couple alternatives to homework and also a few reasons why homework is needed.

1. Long term assignments. Instead of nightly homework, this would be more long term and therefore kids could better manage their time. Plus kids would have plenty of class time to complete the assignmnet, meaning that they would not necesarily need to do anything at home. 

2. Group assignments. Yes, kids will probably have to do some work at home, but it would be in a social setting, and kids would still be interacting with each other. 

But wait:
1. Students do need practice. Yes there are six hours in a school day, but each class is only around fifty minutes. Therefore if the lesson is 30-40 minutes, students will probably need a bit more time to practice what they learned.

2. Its really hard to write a good paper in class. Those should probably need to be done at home. 

3. Technology: if we are to truly adapt technology into classrooms, students will probably need to do this at home or in the computer lab. Until we get to the point where we have computers in every classroom, this will need to be done at home.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Journal #4: "Join the Flock" & "Enhance Your Twitter Experience."

Ferguson, H. (2010). Join the flock. Learning & leading with technology, 37(8), 12-14. Retrieved from

Miller, S. M. (2010). Enhance your twitter experience. Learning & leading with technology, 37(8), 14-17. Retrieved from  

These articles by Ferguson and Miller are basically beginner guides for teachers that want to get involved with Twitter and expand their online professional learning network(PLN). Ferguson's article is basically just a review of what we learned in class. What I did like about the article is her comment about how by only allowing 140 characters, Twitter doesn't let you embarrass yourself (try telling that to Charlie Sheen). The Miller article was a bit more interesting in introduced two Twitter organizers which I had never heard of before. The one that she recommends is called Tweet Deck, and this looks like it could be pretty useful by organizing different Twitter groups into columns. This would be useful for me, as it would separate my different groups, like sports, comedy, and education. She also talks about a cool site called Hootlet which makes it really easy to send links out by twitter while you are surfing the web. Both of these writers emphasize the need to be active on Twitter, and this will help you build your PLN. 

Question 1: What is the advantage of re-tweeting?

Answer: Re-tweeting can help you build your personal network because other users will be happy that you liked their post and they may eventually follow you. This in turn will give you a more visible web presence.      

Question 2: What are some other Twitter resources that Miller doesn't mention? 

Answer: There are now hundreds of Twitter apps that you can access to improve your Twitter life. Twitbin is an app that keeps your Twitter feed always running on your browser, and lets you tweet as you browse other pages. This basically arranges it so you don't have to keep switching back to the Twitter home page all the time. Another one that looks cool is Twittervision, which lets you see who is Tweeting in a certain area. So if you want too know what they are tweeting about in Armenia, you can find out.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Journal #3: Upside down and inside out: Flip your classroom to improve student learning.

Fulton, K. (2012). Upside down and inside out: Flip your classroom to improve student learning. Learning & leading with technology, 12-17. Retrieved from

The concept of the flipped classroom is certainly an enticing one. For teachers, this idea that students will learn the bulk of their material at home through multimedia presentations is both exciting and scary. The exciting part is that in essence, teachers will get the majority of class time to interact with students, instead of the traditional lecture or lesson. Parents have claimed that this somewhat eliminates the need for expensive private tutors, as teachers have much more one-on-one time with their students. The scary part is two-fold. Teachers will have to create an entire digital library of information for their students to watch. For some of our technically challenged teachers, this could be quite the task. Not only this, but teachers will also need to create an entirely new system on how they conduct their class. They will no longer be primarily up in front of the class, but rather walking around and interacting personally with students.

Question 1: Would I use this method in my class?
A: Probably not right now.  I think the biggest issue for me would be that this system would clearly benefit student that had a stable home life. Students that are in charge of watching their brothers and sisters, or who have big families and don't have the resources to watch these videos, may not be able to get the proper instruction.

Question 2: What subjects do you think this would work the best for?
A: I think that this would probably the most beneficial for students in math. Students would be able to go at their own pace, which is often a problem in math class. Math is also probably the subject which benefits the most from one-on-one help with the teacher, and this system would allow for that.

Journal 2: School 2.0 Reflection Tool

NETS-T Module #3: Model Digital-Age Work and Learning
Resource: Eduism

According to its website, "Edusim is a 3D multi-user virtual world platform and authoring toolkit intended for your classroom interactive whiteboard," ( Now if you are anything like me, you would have read that and had pretty much no idea what it does. However after watching  this video, I was actually quite impressed about what this tool can do in the classroom. This tool basically turns your entire whiteboard into a tablet device, meaning that students can draw pictures, point out items, and navigate through virtual landscapes, just by pointing at items on the whiteboard. The site also advertises that teachers could use the tool to take its students on a virtual field trip. As a history teacher, I could see using this tool to take my history class to Gettysburg, and navigating the landscape to actually show where Chamberlin made his stand, without leaving the classroom. This other video shows how a science teacher could use it to teach anatomy. Really cool stuff. 

Question 1: Would I use this in my classroom?
A: Maybe. I would have to check it out a bit more. The examples on youtube look pretty interesting, but I have a feeling that it still may be fairly limited on what it can do , and you probably have to depend on the interfaces that are already produced, which may not be that extensive. This technology is still probably a few years away from being revolutionary. 

Question 2: Do tools like this help narrow the digital divide?
A: Again, not really sure. What is good about this program is that it is primarily used in the classroom as a learning tool, meaning that it is not dependent on students having access to the internet or even a computer at home. However, it is dependent on the teacher or the school having access to this technology, and the website does not make it clear about what exactly you would need to run this program, and how much it would cost. It is possible that  the equipment needed to run the program is expensive, and only wealthier schools could afford it. The website should do a better job of explaining exactly how it works, and what is needed to run it. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Journal 1: 100 things that make me happy.

1. Lazy mornings with my wife.
2. Playing with my nieces and nephews.
3. Shooting baskets.
4. Eating out with my parents.
5. Dogs
6. Thai school children's greeting to teachers.
7. Chicken Softy's from Del Taco.
8. Hanging with my friends.
9. Laker victories.
10. Good stand up comedy.
11. Motorcycle riding in Cambodia.
12. A good burger.
13. A great concert.
14. Making new friends.
15. Drinking snaps with my in-laws.
16. Kenken puzzles.
17. Bob Dylan
18. Skype calls with Karin.
19. Watching Naomi play soccer.
20. The beach.
21. Watching and mocking the Eurovision Song contest.
22. My grandpa's pancakes.
23. Beating friends at one-on-one.
24. Teaching kids something new.
25. Finishing my Swedish class.
26. Going to the movies.
27. Eating popcorn.
28. Watching UCLA football and basketball with my dad.
29. Shopping with my mom.
30. Good guacamole.
31. American Chinese food.
32. Playing basketball with my nephews.
33. The White Stripes.
34. Playing guitar.
35. Exploring new places with Karin.
36. Midsummer in Sweden.
37. Zambian weddings.
38. The Big Lebowski.
39. Completing a big assignment.
40. Yelling domino.
41. London nightlife.
42. Tuesday nights at the Maple Leaf.
43. Kotija Jr.
44. My school in Thailand, Ban Ta Din Daeng.
45. Comfy sofas.
46. Family brunches.
47. My sisters.
48. The French Quarter back streets.
49. Funny podcasts.
50. My computer.
51. Looking at old pictures.
52. Talking about when I first met my wife.
53. The World Cup.
54. Fresh fruit.
55. Bottle Beach.
56. These kids to the left.
57. Good Thai food.
58. Driving on open roads.
59. Weddings.
60. Vacation.
61. The occasional video game battle with friends.
62. Taking my niece out driving.
63. Discovering new music.
64. Cool museums.
65. Beating Karin at board games. 
66. Making a good dinner for friends. 
67. The Cowboys on Thanksgiving. 
68. Getting and giving presents. 
69. Pulp Fiction. 
70. Karin's mormor's meatballs. 
71. Weekends, now that I'm not bar-tending anymore.  
72. Complaining about the weather in Sweden. 
73. Tom Petty concerts. 
74. Ben and Jerry's half baked. 
75. Being 75% done with this list. 
76. Fraggle Rock. 
77. Fletch. 
78. Reminiscing on college. 
79. Barbecues. 
80. Living in the tropics. 
81. Isla Vista. 
82. Tuk Tuks. 
83. Elephants playing harmonicas. 
84. Playing with Bailey. 
85. Sleeping. 
86. Mad Men. 
87. Girls (the show)
88.The return of Breaking Bad. 
89. Archer. 
90. Old Seinfeld reruns. 
91. FInding an apartment. 
92. Clean laundry. 
93. Steve Nash is on the Lakers. 
94. Chips and dip. 
95. Trivia games. 
96. The Tate Modern. 
97. Curb Your Enthusiasm. 
98. Sledding in the snow. 
99. In'N Out
100. Laughing with Karin