Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Day Dreamer

John Paul Titlow discusses the change in music in his article, “New Apps Show the Music Education Revolution is Just Getting Started.”  I think everyone knew that with the creation of online music pirating, ahem….Napster, that the way music is communicated would be forever changed.  It’s been about a decade since then and music technology is only developing at a more rapid rate.
Music education is now available online, via SoundSlice – which allows guitar-learners to watch YouTube videos to learn tabs.  Children can essentially teach themselves with the help of this app.  Music education students are also able to communicate with a teacher over Skype.  This is a transformative approach to teaching and learning to play music. 
I particularly think this is an awesome approach to learning music because I have quite the embarrassing/horror story on my quest to play a musical instrument.  In fifth grade, I decided to pick up playing the trumpet in the band.  Man, I really loved it and was pretty darn good at it…..if I must say so myself.  However, I was forced to give it up because I had some sort of allergic reaction to the metal on the trumpet.  Literally, it looked like I had a football in my mouth. 
So, I switched to the percussion.  I was given this little starter drum and the xylophone.  The xylophone was so tricky, and I never figured it out.  Needless to say, I dropped out of band that year.  Maybe, if I was able to work on the craft in the comfort of my home with some YouTube assistance, my xylophone skills maybe would have improved.  Who knows?  Instead of pursuing educational technology, I could be pursuing music education or even better, a Grammy. J   

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Art of Teaching

I could really relate to Shira Loewenstein’s article, “Mentorship: Teaching the Teachers,” because she explains an itch that teachers go through after they develop stability in their career.  When I became a teacher, I always knew that I would have to continue to develop my education, and although it wasn’t especially attractive to me, it also didn’t deter me from entering this profession.  Once I got settled in my first teaching job, I immediately wanted to go back to school; it wasn’t necessarily the “itch” she describes, but it was a longing of sorts to advance my education.
All throughout college, I wanted to be an English teacher.  English was my major, and business education was my minor.  To be honest, I thoroughly enjoyed my business classes, but I never actually thought I’d teach it.  I student-taught in an English classroom and had an unofficial long-term substitute position teaching English.  However, that is where my English teacher experience ends.  Since spring 2009, I have been teaching consistently as a business teacher. 
After a semester in my first permanent teaching job, I knew that I loved teaching business and wanted to develop my education in that area.  So, I went back to CMU for a semester to become vocationally certified and make my business minor a major.  Then, I began this Master’s program in January to develop my career even more. 
As Loewenstein says, “Teaching is a craft – an art form – that needs to be practiced and perfected.” This is why continuing education is so important.  I know that I know more now about pedagogy than I did when I first graduated college in 2008.  I also know that I’ll know more in five years.  This is what thoughtful and dedicated teachers do – they continue to develop their ‘craft.’ 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cyber Monday

The need for cash will be around for a long time, but over time it's likely to become the exception rather than the rule.”

This quote was taken from Michael Singer’s article on the ReadWrite Web, Paying It Forward - Online And Mobile Style.  Today, we’ve become so dependent on technology for making purchases, handling our money, and managing our finances.  I no longer even get a paycheck because it directly deposits into my bank account.  If I want to see it, I have a voucher that I can view online.  I can pay all of my bills online, and shopping online is very easy.  Customer service is becoming obsolete; with pay-at-the-pump and self-checkout, there’s hardly interaction between a sales clerk and a customer. 

It is a rarity for me to carry cash; I maybe have only a few dollars on me every few weeks.  I use my debit card for everything and nearly every place accepts credit.  You can even swipe a debit card to buy a Coke from the pop machine.  However, last week, I went to pay for my dog’s stay at a kennel and was quite flabbergasted when they told me they didn’t accept credit cards. 

Online money management is a method to simplifying handling cash.  It is easier; I no longer have to carry a massive wallet and worry about dropping cash.  This form of technology is only going to become more user-friendly and common over time.  I’m sure they’ll develop even easier methods to make purchases. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Good Deals

I always like a good deal.  If I can save a certain percentage, I seem to always be able to justify spending on something.  Now, I’m not a crazy coupon lady or anything; I’m more like an Internet- junkie-website-enroller-for-discounts type of lady.  I love to sign-up to receive e-mails for different stores because usually, they’ll always send you a 15-20% off coupon just for enrolling with periodic coupons after that.  Now, my inbox gets sort of crowded sometimes.  During the week, I always have my e-mail open and I enjoy going through the different offers from stores.  However, if I find that I’m not getting what I want out of the e-mails (ahem…coupons, sales promotions, etc.) then I discontinue them.  At the bottom of the e-mail, there is a tiny, tiny button that is usually faded grey that says, “Unsubscribe.”  When you click this button, you’ll be able to adjust your settings to how often you receive e-mails from this business.  If you opt-out, the e-mails will no longer come.  Simple as that.  I do this once every few months to prevent too much of a good thing in my e-mail. 
In an article on ReadWriteThink, Robyn Tippins discusses the same sort of issue in her article, “How to Keep Marketing E-Mails from Drowing Your Inbox.”  However, she offers a different solution.  Swizzle is an online service that scans your inbox for commercial e-mails. 
Just as I clicked on this website, I was thinking how unnecessary it was, but its careful ploy really intrigues the customer.  Is it free?  Will it weed out what I want from what I don’t need?  Then, I click on the total game changer – it gives you the top promotional deals from various companies. This is something I can get used to.  I decide that I do want to sign up, but it doesn’t support my e-mail provider.  Psh…some things are too good to be true. 

Create an "I Can" Culture

My first teaching job was at a private school where the teachers complained about students that wanted additional homework and a bigger challenge.  Yes, that was our biggest problem.  The students wanted good grades, but even more than that, the students wanted to be successful.  Nearly everyone wanted to be a doctor and everyone wanted to get into a top university.  I didn’t realize how lucky I was until I began a new teaching job at a new school.  I just took it for granted that students want to learn.  Now, if I mention college to a senior, they just shrug their shoulders and mutter something about community college under their breath. 
The biggest difference between these two groups of students is the culture in which they’ve been raised.  In my old school, students were held to a high standard by their parents, teachers – everyone.  College representatives were constantly coming to visit the students; college and scholarship applications were always readily available, and these students knew they had options.  My current students need to know that they are capable of achieving more.  A culture needs to be created that forces these students to realize just how important college choices are. 
Edutopia featured an article titled, “Creating a Culture of ‘Can,’” which discussed the different ways to create enabled learners.  Students must learn and truly understand they can.  Heick says, Can is a mix of knowledge and self-efficacy that has been nurtured through experience – by consistently meeting both internally and externally created goals judged by standards that are also both internally and externally drawn.” I now realize that my new teaching job doesn’t just require teaching – I must create a diverse classroom culture that promotes independence, collaboration, and success. 

Monday, November 19, 2012


I have two students that greet me every single day when they come into my classroom and thank me when they exit.  When the school year first started, I sort of brushed these students off thinking they were just being polite.  Strangely enough, these two students are sisters.  At parent-teacher conferences, I spoke with their parents and told them how polite and respectful their daughters are because they are the only students to ever thank me when they leave.  Then, the parents of these two students told me something I’d never considered – they are thankful to have me as a teacher, to be learning, and to be in my classroom. Up until this year, these students were home-schooled.  The girls spent quite an amount of time convincing their parents that they should go to school, rather than be home-schooled.  These girls are not only polite but actually want to be in school. 
An article appeared on Edutopia called, “Thank a Student.”    Sometimes, we get so caught up in our everyday life that we forget to be truly appreciative.  Once these students’ parents told me how grateful the girls were to be in school, it made me appreciate them that much more.  Provenzano says, “Not only do teachers feel underappreciated, but students feel this way, too.”  This is so important in developing a relationship with students.  It is important to show our students that we are grateful to have them in our class.    

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

FIRE UP Chips!

Okay, I admit it – I’m a tad unnerved.  That’s an understatement, actually.  I’m extremely appalled and disturbed.  As a Central Michigan alumni, teacher, and CMU educational technology graduate student, I think it is only natural to have a reaction to the charges brought against our former professor.  Since I first heard the news, so many emotions have passed through my body – denial, confusion, and anger – just to name a few.  I feel betrayed and I never even met the man in person; I absolutely cannot imagine how his family must feel. 
I began thinking.  How can a man, so educated and successful in his career, just sneak through the cracks for so long?  How can a 58-year-old man who has worked in education for several years only now screw up so badly?  Is it possible that he woke up one morning two-weeks-ago and just suddenly downloaded all of this inappropriate, graphic material?
In document written by the Geneva, Illinois Police Department regarding Internet safety, characteristics of an online predator are college graduate, computer savvy, successful careers, and the list goes on.  If those are the characteristics of a predator, than whom can we trust? These monsters do not wear scary masks or hold signs that say, “Danger,” but instead look like everyone else.    This man taught teachers how to be better teachers.  He was a tenured professor in what many consider a prestigious teaching program and university.  
My feelings of betrayal, I admit, stem from my own selfish inadequacies.  Will the fallout of one man’s actions affect all of us?  By that, I mean, will a degree from CMU’s teaching program lose value and will students not want to attend CMU because of this negative publicity?  I can’t help but feel that my Master’s Degree will come a bit tarnished. 
After the Penn State scandal, reports showed in April 2012, 14 percent less students had committed to PSU than at the same time the previous year.  There is really no comparison between these two events; undoubtedly what happened at Penn State was way worse.  At least one man did sickening things and from there, a long chain of cover-ups and “turn-the-other-cheeks” happened.  From what I have read, all of CMU personnel acted in a professional manner regarding this.  Everyone had a strong sense of urgency and handled the situation appropriately; within hours of finding the evidence, this professor was suspended.
That is what I need to remember when I proudly hang my Central Michigan University degree in the frame.  This professor was only one man, and CMU is a university filled with excellent teachers.   I will not think of his action but only about the reaction of the CMU employees involved in this terrible incidence.  That, alone, is enough to make me proud to be a Chippewa.   

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Bubble

Fredric Paul wrote an interesting article about the new Blackberry 10.  While smart phone after smart phone has been released, the Blackberry 10 has waited to release the new phone until the first few weeks of 2013.  While that doesn’t seem like a long wait to some, it apparently is an eternity for avid smart phone users.  Paul believes that the Blackberry 10 will flop because comparable smart phones have already been released with equitable features.  Personally, I don’t think that the release date is the problem.  The problem is that I, and probably a lot of other people, didn’t even hear about or even know that a new Blackberry was coming out.
Marketing.  It’s a pretty simple idea that has a tremendous impact on companies, products, and sales.  Apple does a fantastic job marketing its products; they create a movie trailer for every iPhone that comes out.  It is always a top story on the news when a new product is coming out.  Why does it seem like the Blackberry 10 is a well-kept secret?  There are many new features that are attractive to users, and I remember when the Blackberry was the “it smart phone” to have.  If I were in the marketing department of this company, I would be shouting from the rooftops about the new Blackberry.  But, I don’t work for this company and according to Paul, the Blackberry 10 is doomed. 
Has anyone heard anything about this release?  I didn’t think I lived in a bubble, but maybe I do?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Friends don't let Friends Text and Drive

At some point or other, we’ve all been guilty of it probably.  I know many that are guilty of it every day.  Even before the “No text while driving” law passed in the state of Michigan, I avoided texting while driving.  I knew that it was dangerous and could potentially cause an accident.  In Adam Popescu’s article on Read Write Web, he claims, Distracted driving killed more than 3,000 Americans in 2010,” and “Last year 11% of all U.S. crashes were attributed to cell phone use.” Those are scary statistics. 
The fact is that texting while driving is extremely hazardous to yourself and those in other vehicles around you.   I honestly love to talk on the phone while driving.  I do not believe that it impairs my attention or reaction time – too much.  If you’re not talking on the phone, you’re adjusting the radio or reaching for something in your purse.  Unfortunately, we live in a world where everyone is a distracted driver.  Why is it that we’re bored when we’re driving?
Probably most people who text while driving have experienced ‘close calls.’  I label a ‘close call’ as a near-accident situation, a veer while driving, or pretty much anything that makes your heart race a little bit.  Experiencing a close call, for me, was enough to make me not text while driving – ever.  Why don’t other people who experience close calls learn their lesson?  Does it take an accident or even a death to make you realize that a text just isn’t worth it?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tweet Away

Throughout my student teaching, my coordinator would warn all of us about the risks of communicating with students online.  When I began my first teaching job, social media and communicating with students online was taboo.  Teachers have all heard the horror stories about student accusations and risks associated with communicating with students via technology.   My students would always want to be my Facebook friend, and I would always decline the offer.  I made sure my pictures, comments, and my entire online world was on lockdown.  
Now, throughout this program, I’ve been developing an online presence that is open and viewable by students, potential employers, and anyone who wants to research me.  I read an article on Edutopia that teachers came together on Twitter to discuss the Presidential election with students.  My students, in the past, would always ask me if I tweet.  I always laughed and thought it would be ridiculous if I did simply because the only people that would follow me would be my students.  But, tweeting about technology and thought-provoking issues that extend beyond the classroom walls provides an excellent way to engage students.  As long as your Twitter is strictly professional and does not include personal commentary, then tweet away!
This school’s forum for the Presidential election became very popular.  The article said, “The feedback so far has been positive. Students value the fact that we embrace 21st century media, and they enjoy hearing different perspectives about the issues.”  Even though this high school is a top vocational academy with academically excelled students, there were tweets from many outside contributors, such as parents, alumni, and teachers from different schools.  Technology teachers need to engage students by familiarizing the students with popular culture.  Twitter is popular culture right now! 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

What is Instagram?!

What is Instagram?!  Why, in this day and age, do we want to make our pictures look aged?  Currently, Instagram is an app used on your phone to edit pictures.  It changes lighting, gives pictures borders, and yes, can make pictures look like those old 1960’s portraits that hide in everyone’s basement.  But, it is a huge company making a killing in profits.  I believe it is successful because it is a contemporary version of picture-taking.  Don’t you remember when black and white pictures became popular again?  It is something new and changes the way we capture images.  Even though this company is so successful, it is presently limited to the confines of your cell phone.  However, Instagram is expanding to the entire World Wide Web.
In an article on the Read Write Web, John Paul Titlow shares how Instagram is growing and will benefit all computer users.  Looking at Instagram pictures will become easier to navigate as it will allow ‘browser-bound’ users to look through an entire user’s photo gallery, instead of just one picture.  However, there is still a barrier between mobile users and ‘browser-bound’ users.  Even though it will be modernized to look like the Facebook timeline, people won’t be able to see who they’re following.
In the future, I believe that capturing pictures will become even more modernized.  There will be better cameras on smart phones with more options.  Color shading will change and someday, we’ll probably even be able to retouch our own photos on Smart phones.  As long as Instagram continues to improve, it will probably continue being successful.   

Monday, November 5, 2012

Thanksgiving Resource

When I first decided I wanted to go into teaching, I spent time in a 1st grade classroom and a high school English classroom.  Within about 20 minutes, I knew that I would never be able to be an elementary teacher.  My patience is way too thin, and it was extremely difficult for me to explain in more than one way why 2 X 2=4.  It was difficult for me because basic multiplication is something that I just understand.  Because I can’t understand why a student doesn’t understand, how can I teach it so they comprehend it?  At least at the high school level, I can put myself in their shoes and understand what their struggle is. 
Now, in my current teaching job, I teach elementary students once a week.  Thankfully, I teach computers, and students are always eager and excited to learn about computers.  So far, we’ve utilized Wordle, Timerime, Storybird, and PowerPoint to learn various concepts in computers.  But, I’m always looking for different digital tools to incorporate into my teaching.  Richard Byrne wrote an article called, “Free Technology for Teachers,” that discussed different websites would teach children about Thanksgiving. 
After looking at the resources listed, Scholastic provides an awesome resource for students to learn about pilgrims’ journey on the Mayflower.  It compares the pilgrims’ life to the Wampanoag Indians and provides audio supplementing reading material.  There are videos for students to watch and teaching materials for instructors to use.  There are lesson plans for the K-12 curriculum.  I definitely plan on incorporating this in my elementary classes.  Currently, we’re learning about the presidential election, so I think I’m going to start using this resource next week.