Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Social Networking - Ning!

Social Networking opens up many doors to allow users to learn from others and share information in many different areas of interest. Today, I explored the Ning social networking system, signed up, and even joined a community forum. The group that I found to be of professional interest was the English Companion.

The English Companion is designed to help English Teachers and even has specific forums that teachers can join, such as teaching writing, new teachers, and journalism, to name a few. Because I have an invested interest in Creative Writing and hope to teach this subject one day, I joined the Creative Writing Forum. When I perused this social network, I found a teacher wanted to motivate her students to write by providing them with opportunities to become published. She was unsure of how to do this, and many members offered some great advice on sites and publishing grups/companies that she could use for her students. I thought this would be a great idea as students who are proud of their work would want to share it with others.

In the future, I could use the English Companion if I did have any questions regarding how to teach a certain component of the English Curriculum, how to motivate students, and even how to make a boring topic more interesting. With thousands of members and hundred belonging to each specific group, I will be sure to receive at least some help!

Visit Ning and explore a social network that might interest you:

-Or- Visit the English Companion and see how helpful it might be for you!

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Learner of Today

A learner is like a social being that connects with others in order to gain knoweldge and insight.

Through his article "Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age" as well as through his online short videos, George Siemens describes the learner today in accordance with technology and networking. The analogy above encompasses the point that he tries to make throughout his article and videos with regards to how someone in this day and age learns. Learning, as he states in his article, "can reside outside of ourselves (within an organization or a database), is focused on connecting specialized information sets, and the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing." This, in a nutshell, means that while we learn on our own, branching out and networking by sharing ideas with others also helps us learn in many different ways.
In his video entitled, "The Changing Nature of Knowledge," Siemens describes how we gain knowledge through the use of technology. He illustrates this through saying that we learn both internally as well as externally. When we "make connections with others" our learning is external. The whole social element of learning and thus gaining knoweldge through staying current and connected is further emphasized in his remaining videos: "The Conflict of Learning Theories with Human Nature," "The Impact of Social Media on Learning," and "The Network is the Learning."
Social elements are important for learning, and Siemens firmly believes that we have a need to communicate with others to share our thoughts and to connect. Networking helps us to achieve this as well as helps us to learn from others through what Siemens calls the "distributive method." Not only does our need to communicate and learn from others result from networking, but when we share our thoughts, we may gain more of an understanding of our own ideas or even look at an idea in another light. Networking, Siemens feels, is the learning. As a learner, though, it is up to us to take the information we gain, add to it, revise it, and keep it current. Siemens states in his video "The Network is the Learning": "What we know today is not as important as our ability to stay current." This is an important concept as it is up to us as induviduals to gain knowledge as well as use the tools technology provides to us to apply the old to the new, and stay on top of new, important information.
Overall, when i say that a learner is like a social being that connects with others in order to gain knowledge and insight, I quite literally mean that learning is a social process. While many parts of learning do occur on a cognitive level, it is through others that we truly learn. By listening to what others think and in turn sharing our own opinions, we learn. Technology, through the networking process, helps us to keep our learning current in a very social way!

To read George Siemens' article "Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age," follow this link - http://www.itdl.org/Journal/Jan_05/article01.htm

His videos can also be found below:
The Changing Nature of Knowledge

The Conflict of Learning Theories with Human Nature
The Impact of Social Media on Learning
The Network is the Learning

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Top Three Ways to Use Blogs in the Classroom

There are many great ways to use blogs in the classroom for students of all ages. Not only does a blog increase a student's access to the internet and current technology, but it also has the ability to increase both communication and learning. Of the many ways to incorporate the blog into the classroom, below are three ways I feel would be effective ways to do so.

1. Basic Communication With Students and Parents: Being able to communicate with both students and parents is an important responsibility of the teacher. Through creating a blog that reaches out to both audiences at once, the teacher has made the first step in accomplishing this goal. A blog with the intent in communication would be something as basic as providing a brief entry each day reviewing with both students and parents the content that was reviewed and anything special that might have happened that day. This would allow for the parents to see what was going on in the classroom and would also allow the students to ask any questions about the material covered as well as post comments on what they liked or even didn't like about the material. Homework, upcoming tests, and other important information could also be posted. This way students would have a nice review, and parents would be kept in the loop!

2. Interactive Student Portfolios: In many classes, students are expected to collect pieces of work and compile such pieces into a comprehensive portfolio which shows their ongoing growth and achievement. Through the use of blogs, students could post all of their assignments online for the teacher to observe as well as for other students to read and comment on. For example, in a Language Arts class, students could post their best poems and short stories on their blog for other students in the class to see. The students, as well as the teacher, could then offer suggestions, make positive comments, and ask questions about the works. The student author of the blog would then respond to the students and teacher by making changes to the work and posting it again. This would allow the student as well as the teacher to view the effort and progression of each piece of work.

3. Additional Help: Many students may not understand a concept but are simply too shy or unsure of how to ask for help. A teacher could create a blog that would provide additional help and activities to ensure that students truly understand concepts from class. Such a blog could include a review of material, vocabulary words with definitions, tricks/nemonic devices to remember material, or quizzes. The teacher could also provide links to web sites that may explain the material differently or in simplier terms, provide a game or activity to test the student's knowledge, or even provide some sort of visual for the student, such as a youtube video explaining the doppler effect. In additional, students could post questions or even answer each other's questions, thus encouraging not only additional help but communication from teacher to student and from student to student.