This past week of evomlit (week 3), we looked at the “pedagogical lens” as proposed by M. Pegrum in From Blogs to Bombs.  I’ve been looking at a lot of the tools mentioned, and trying to figure out how to best coordinate my online experiences in an ePortfolio.  While I understand the concept, I’m having trouble finding a tool that I really like and that doesn’t require me to basically start from scratch again.

When I moved back to the US in July and had to really begin my job search, one of the “new” requirements was “proof of teaching excellence.” This was something new to me.  I knew I should be keeping a portfolio, but I had no clue what should actually go there.  My master’s program never discussed this at all, and my undergrad in business wasn’t helping much.  So, I scrambled.  And am still scrambling.  I’ve been active in EVOs for a while now, and have spent countless hours developing activities and workshops with online components.  But I haven’t been good at pulling it all together.  I’ve tried with wikis, and for now have a portfolio on Google Sites at http://sites.google.com/site/erinlowry2/. I’m not happy with how it looks (liked it much better when it was still hosted through Google Pages), and even less with its capabilities to display feeds from the different things I’m working on or teaching.  I still don’t have any “real” videos of me teaching, which I need to fix and soon.  I also have a LinkedIn profile at http://www.linkedin.com/in/erinlowry, but haven’t found it that useful. After looking at the portfolios for some of the other evomlit participants (http://jenniferverschoor.pbworks.com/, ), I think I might go back and try pbworks.  I’ve used it for course materials, and find it easier to use than wikidot, which I had used for one of my earlier portfolio attempts.

In this week’s reading, we looked at 4 “literacy groups”:

  1. Language literacies
  2. Information literacies
  3. Connection literacies
  4. Remix literacies

I especially enjoyed the section that mentioned how students at a particular college were allowed to use the internet, iPods, and “phone a friend” while taking an exam, and how these activities were not cheating, but “using our tools and including the world in our knowledge base.”  This reminded me of several recent happenings at my school.

  1. I was sitting in a department meeting discussing the possible adoption of new textbooks for next year.  I had previously looked online to see what I could find that I thought we should request samples of, and mentioned this to the group.  I was told that the state has a list of books we are allowed to use, and that the list would be forwarded to me later.  I had my laptop out, immediately googled and found the list, and was all ready to decide then, but no one else wanted to see it or seemed to believe that I had found it.  What should have been a decision made in 5 minutes (short list to choose from!) has stretched into 2 weeks.
  2. My students commenting before finals time how good they are at cheating (they’re actually quite obvious).  They had time beforehand to create drafts of the writing they had to do for their final, where they could use their books, dictionaries, the internet, each other, and so on.  I had one student who brought his draft on his iPhone, which I let him use, and then wondered what admin would think if they came into my classroom and saw him using it!

I agree that in their working lives, my current students will never had to carry large amounts of information around in their heads (besides my hope for them to be able to communicate in another language).  All my doctor friends that are now in the middle of their residencies have Blackberries or PDAs or other tools to use. They will need to be able to access information and do so quickly.

I’m feeling a little guilty about still not being so caught up after three days off school for snow, but I’ll get there!

I went to a quick lunchtime workshop this week where teachers were introduced to the many features of a Smartboard.  Mostly I went so that they would let me use a Smartboard in my classroom, but it certainly wasn’t the first time I’d seen one.  I couldn’t help but grin while the others were owhing and awhing over this “new” technology they were going to have in their classrooms.  The first Smartboard I played with was in 1999 while I was student worker at UC.  Design students were using it to present their portfolios to reps at different companies, and it was paired with videoconferencing.  It made me wonder again what exactly the relationship between technology and public schools in the US is.

This is the second week of evomlit, and as always, I’m having a bit of a time keeping up, and keep sinking a little further into my patano of technology, where I get stuck playing with new tools and never get around to commenting on them.  I’ve been using iGoogle for a while now, and sometime in late 2008 finally figured out that Twitter was a useful tool.  Last week I started using Diigo.  Thinking about the technological lens, I find it more challenging every day to try to filter out what technologies might work with my students, what my school will actually allow (before I get too excited about using something that I actually cannot), and equally more frustrating to try to understand what a “21st century” skill really is. In From Blogs to Bombs, Mark P. makes a point that I live every day as a high school language teacher:

“Effectively, our whole culture has moved into perpetual beta, where changes happen so quickly, and are contributed to by so many diverse people and groups, that everything becomes provisional. There’s real potential here for doing things a new way. But there are also lots of people, from parents to politicians and despots to democrats, who find their worldviews unsettled.”

I find it unsettling that my students’ worldview is upset as well.  I believe that they need to know how to use the tools that make up such a large part of their lives in a way that benefits their education.  I understand why so many things are filtered out on our computers, but then how do I teach my students to sort through what’s good and bad?  What’s real or not?

I had more written here the first time around, then managed to erase everything!  I do want to spend some time going through Mark Pegrum’s wiki this week, http://e-language.wikispaces.com/.

This video struck a chord with me. I recently returned to the US after four years of living abroad in El Salvador and Colombia, and teaching EFL. Having picked a bad month economy-wise to come back (July), I ended up taking a job teaching high school Spanish in Eastern North Carolina. I was hoping to find an ESL position, but it didn’t work out, and I love Spanish as much as I do English! The school I’m at made a huge pitch to me that included lots of support for using technology in the classroom, which is for me, an essential part of teaching today.

I started working with my students halfway through the semester, and have run into many walls not only with technology, but with resources and curriculum in general. These are not yesterday’s students…they’re today’s. Although the students are classified as “poor” for the most part, the majority walk into my room with at least a cell phone, if not also some kind of MP3 player or video game system. Or more than one! Problem is, they can’t use them, but they’re allowed to have them (which means they’re going to use them).

Many of my students have problems concentrating and are easily distracted, and listening to music does help (they’ve shown me that). But, we can’t do that. Many of their phones can connect to the Internet (but we can’t do that either). There’s 5 computers in my room, plus a laptop and dataprojector, which I was excited about at first, until I figured out that almost anything I would want to use is blocked. All audio and video material is supposed to be board-approved before it is used as well. I understand why, but at the same time, don’t see that as realistic. Content changes every day, which my students and I know, but others seem to not. Students also have no way to email from the school, which means that setting up accounts

I’ve spent the past 9 weeks surviving, trying to adapt content to encourage communication and interest, to incorporate ways to use the language to create, but feel that I failed.  But I’m not close to being done trying, and can’t wait to get my hands on some new ideas that will actually work!  There’s so much more that I have to say about my students, but…I just realized that this is the seventh year I’ve participated in EVO sessions, and the first where I haven’t been actively involved in teaching ESL or EFL. I think that there’s a lot that I can learn from this session, Multiliteracies and Collaboration and am really looking forward to it!

Check out this nifty photo book created with Bookr. It fits in with my (kind of) yearly Valentine’s / technology theme.  This could be a great activity to use with students.

Check out this blog entry with links to presentations about task-based instruction in foreign language learning.  Jane and Dave Willis also have a site where you can download lessons that use task-based instruction.

My Desk

My Desk

Label the parts of my desk using the vocabulary we looked at during the last class. Copy the picture and paste it in a new entry on your blog, followed by the list of words.  For example:

A. Computer
B. Chair