Don’t forget to listen to the podcast and fill out the worksheet, have a good weekend!

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Have you heard about the podcast? It’s actually not that new of a concept. Podcasts’ emerged in the 90s when bloggers would record themselves working on a project, reading a book, or just venting and then post the mp3 file to their pages. Today, we know podcasts as being a  “digital media file” that can be found primarily online. To play a podcast, one must use a computer or a media device such as an iPod, choose the subject or object you want to listen to and off you go. Think of it as a book on tape- just perhaps not as long. In addition to sound, podcasts can include images to enhance its usability.

ImageThe article that has sparked my imagination discussed the usage of podcasts at the university level, where, many professors are utilizing the podcast technology to better the learning environment for their students. The technology is being adapted for students in the classroom and those who are taking online courses. At PoducateMe.com, an evaluation done at Duke University found that students who were using podcasts became increasingly more engaged and interested in class discussions. The website also includes an informational guide, meant for teachers, on creating one of their own.

 I then began to think about how our K-12 group could utilize this trend in our Magic Backpack project. Our plan, among other things, was to move teachers from the classrooms into this virtual classroom realm. An option to make use of podcasting could be an archive. In this archive, podcasts could be made available on an array of subjects that the curriculum doesn’t go in depth on. For example, under History, there could be a podcast on an old wives tale or unsolved mystery regarding the topic of the Civil War. Another example could be a sample piece of literature like an assigned poem or Shakespeare piece-which in its own right is rather challenging to read. The podcasts would also serve as an additional reinforcement tool on the lessons of that day/week. By including the lesson in addition to these other extra files, we are extending an arm of information to students who don’t share the same “classroom.” Again, this reinforces the concept of shared communication and a shared communal classroom. Podcasts could even include tutorials on using specialized resources in the Magic Backpack. For example if a new tool were to be introduced on the site, it would be simple to just listen to the podcast and follow the instructions on how to navigate through it. This would also benefit students who may be using this particular kind of software for the first time.

Because our project idea is almost entirely located in the digital sphere, it is really important that we utilize tools that make communication, learning, listening, and reading, simpler. Podcasting as well other utilities together can create a pretty unique classroom setting.



On Not Going Far Enough…

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“Print is dead.” – Dr. Egon Spengler

It goes without saying that with all the technological advances in recent history, our lives have changed in almost every way. It’s been interesting to look at education specifically and examine the history and potential future of one aspect of our lives and see how technology has touched it. One thing that has struck me is that education, like many legacy pillars of our society, is holding on to out-dated models while it dabbles in this brave new world, mostly just for show.

A great deal of modern technologies being introduced into classrooms can be helpful, whether it’s clicker systems like those from eInstruction or TurningPoint, or smart boards like those from Smart or Promethean. But too often, they just give administrations an excuse to appear as though they’re embracing the future while still relying on an educational model and approach that’s largely unchanged for over 100 years. It’s like a newspaper that reacts to changing habits of subscribers by setting up a paywall and essentially doubling-down on an outdated business model.

One aspect of working on this project and being encouraged to think to an extreme degree about the current status of our area of emphasis. With all the technological advances in education, we are still trapped to a degree to physical locations and physical text books. Instructors have to be in a room with students to guide them along, all so they can take a standardized test on actual paper that proves little to show that actual learning took place.

Our project is going a long way to solve that problem (hopefully), and the starting place for our project is being honest about where we are. We have ebooks, we have video chat, we have long-distance learning in place. Instead of using these as tools integrated into an out-dated system, they should be the foundation for a new approach to education. That’s where our project begins.

Tag, you’re it. Using the Flickr model to restructure curriculum

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Bloom’s taxonomy outlined tenets of education that became a model for curriculum developers since the 1950s. Bloom divides learning into domains, then breaks those domains into tiered levels. Such division promotes learning as a hierarchy with more basic skills, such as recalling and identifying facts, acting as prerequisites for higher skills like analysis or synthesis.

This taxonomy inspires a sequential learning model. Before students read, they must learn phonics. Before students solve math word problems, they must learn the computation. In this order, a student must demonstrate mastery of a skill often outside the context that skill will be used. Every skill taught is cleaved neatly from the other and taught separately. These skills are then amalgamated into distinct subjects like algebra or literature by junior high as teachers assume students have reached mastery of them.

The cognitive skills Bloom outlines are important, but the model in some ways promotes an inherent segregation of skill sets. We spent a lot of time as educators teaching prerequisite concepts and leaving it up to the students to put together the puzzle pieces. Of course as a fourth grader I hated math, when I was told to plow through worksheet after worksheet seemingly in total isolation to my other work in school.

What if we dismantled the segregation? What if instead of courses, students worked through material that was tagged? A math problem could be tagged with #multiplication, #inference, and #evaluation just as a Sherlock Holmes novel could be tagged with #literature, #deduction, #chemistry, and #vocabulary. Such a cloud of tags could help students make associations across subject areas, helping to spark the natural deepening and maturation of their cognitive skills. This to me, seems a much more intuitive course of instruction.

Learning Today: No Backpack Required?

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By Amanda Montgomery || @acmontgomery

Iconic moments.  Every age we experience as individuals carries certain lingering memories that we eventually file away over time to our mind’s back burner; yet later on these reflections tend to surprise us when they surface unexpectedly. Certainly any number of things (seeing an old photograph, listening to a friend’s story, discovering a particular song, etc) might trigger this nostalgia sans rhyme or reason.  So when planning to write about this week’s blog post for EMAC6361, inspiration much to my surprise grew by looking at Exhibit A – an odd but charming screenshot from the revered 80s classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off


During one’s elementary education stint – is there anything really more exciting than anticipating the annual school field trip?  Although hazy, surely we all recall preparing meticulously so that we’d savor every moment and opportunity to discover new things.  By parental instruction, we knew to pack one’s backpack carefully – not to forget pencil, paper, sack lunch, and extra juice box.  Your backpack also kept the day’s collection of bountiful treasures safe and intact to bring home for further inspection.

Today, when a student begins collecting research and other educational information, field trip fun no longer requires one to tote the cumbersome, overstuffed backpack.  Instead, technology advances make note taking, bookmarking, cataloging, etc easy to create, share, and even store online.  Does learning today mean a backpack becomes obsolete?

When considering the ways knowledge institutes (i.e. K12 education, museums, etc) continue to shift closer and closer toward digital resources that expand the learning process beyond its traditional confines, understandably the archaic tools like backpacks, pencils, and paper materials also change/appear obsolete.  The Museum group’s digital showcase did a fantastic job presenting poignant examples that truly explain how education models are crossing into a new era where kiddos experience then pack information not into a traditional backpack but rather into an storage site similar to Dropbox or Zotero.org.


The advantage to bringing more and more learning exploration, or preparation time for the actual site visit, online proactively helps increase the off site activity quality especially when the previously garnered research syncs to a mobile device (smart phone, tablet, laptop, etc) and a student can then accesses that information while studying live.  Trendwise, it appears that the new school year will no longer begin when one picks out a new designer backpack by Jansport or LL Bean.  Instead the 21st century youngster will now kick off August by registering their classroom profile and sending a hello email to their new homeroom teacher.

So now the task at hand: Our K12 education research group must define a solution that aspires to help resolve a certain challenge/problem/hindrance/issue prohibiting how the primary school model enjoys innovative growth, reconstruction and evolution.  It’s entirely possible that we’ll need to merge archaic traditions/concepts like using a backpack with certain technological functions that exists digitally (cloud computing) so that the new solutions we design help not just primary education classrooms and their participants – but hopefully we also contribute overall to progressive education ideas.

Looking into Project Ideas

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I stumbled across this clip the other day and it inspired me about our upcoming project creation. Knowing that we will not be able to change education overnight, what can we zero in and focus on to just have a starting place. Ken Robinson, British author and education expert, covered a variety of topics. But the two that stuck out were, how children are so easily diagnosed with ADHD and how group collaboration can be more useful for students. Also, his overall point was how millions of students are easily being forgotten due to the fact that they are not reaching societies standard of excellence or being smart enough.

This semester I began working on a teaching certification and I have learned that it is very important to include and engage all students in the class. Students will have various special needs, but the point is not to cast them aside because they may be lacking, not paying attention or falling behind. Also, children are being born into a very stimulating time and era. There is Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, commercials, advertisements for everything and just being targeted at them fighting for their attention. This can then lead to not caring about what takes place in the classroom and later possibly lead to someone telling them that they need medication to control their hyperness.

For the project, maybe we can create a classroom of the future so that children will be able to effectively work in groups using various devices to promote enhanced learning for the forgotten student.

The 2012 ‘Backpack List’

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A Collaborative Review with @acmontgomery | @digital_2_print | @courtsinsession | @todompol07

There is a famous rap lyric that a ‘not so shy’ group member sang unashamedly when we came together to debate, collaborate and create the most impressive list of online educational tools that will help serve classroom needs going forward…

Rob the jewelry store and tell em make me a grill…”  well unlike our good friend Nelly we robbed the Internet to help foster progressive educational ideas and concepts:

Behold… the 2012 ‘Backpack List’ – Happy Investigating!

#1 Discovery Educator Network
Following trend that encourages network collaboration to further solve global challenging issues, like those effecting education, the Discovery channel’s interactive community for teachers, parents, students generates diverse content to help both inside and outside the classroom.

#2 Zotero
Research papers begin long before one hits the University scene but thanks to this program – this site helps students exchange/store/annotate online resources.

#3 ABCya.com
Online gaming & app resource which provides entertaining ways to learn elementary mathematics; check the Tech & Learning magazine article.

#4 ASSIST app
Our list would simply not be complete without giving a local Texas shout out to the innovative company All In Learning; if you’ve seen the classroom where students use a ‘clickr’ to take tests?  Oh ya – that’s just one headline to many these guys claim ownership to.

#5 Edmodo
Coming hot off the press and conference proceedings at SXSWedu, CEO Nic Borg sets the bar to help build a community model which helps leverage social media advantages and elevate educations’s societal role.

#6 Khan Academy
Think that a school system can’t be built on video alone?  Think again – because to date Khan Academy has delivered 134,600,469 video lessons.  Learn at your leisure – now that’s an interesting idea.

#7 Scratch
Built by the friendly MIT Think Tank folks, this interactive tool helps kiddos between 8 and 12 learn to code.

#8 LiveMocha
Online conversation stands to require a certain familiarity as technology advances and expands the global village; stop by this net-based community to learn one (or more) of the world’s 38 more common languages and offer your own expertise.

#9 USATodayCollege.com
In a way this Twitter feed serves as the last frontier / opening chapter to the transition which moves a student from primary to higher education; it’s an unnerving time but USA Today hopes that conversing about this adjustment will help.

#10 TEDEd
This extensive online lecture series follows along the simple premise and quote these truly are ‘Lessons worth Sharing’.

If there are any honorable mentions or other neat-o tech tools which help education – please feel free to share and send links!

Rydell HS: Education as a Village

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Amanda Montgomery || @acmontgomery

“Journalism has been formed by the convergence of many miscellaneous elements over several centuries and the variety of practices and the complexity of relationships between new writers and the publications they wrote for… even at this early point were manifest in the range of different names by which they and their output were described: authors, curranters, mercurists, newsmen, newsmongers, diurnalists, gazeteers, and (eventually) journalists.”  – Martin Conboy
pg 23 from Journalism: A Critical History

Are you wondering if I’m going to pull a ‘IMDb Trivia’ question and ask what epic early 70s movie featured the above high school in its opening musical number?  Not exactly, but if you’re curious it’s acclaimed Rydell High School (Venice Beach, CA) selected to host Grease 2’s filming.

Now on to a more academic discussion; Let’s consider the community cast surrounding Olivia Newton-John, John Travolta, the fellow Pink Ladies, T Birds, Rydell Highers and of course the ever entertaining faculty who must tolerate/discipline the bevy of ensuing semester shenanigans, staged motorcycle rallies, and football season: Mr. Stuart, Miss Mason, Coach Calhoun, the charming Principal McGee.  Martin Conboy’s thoughts describing how modern journalism’s history reflects an ongoing evolution that continues to blend both writer roles and publication platforms, certainly mirrors a similar pattern when looking at the inner operations effecting modern educational institutions.  The proverbial idea rings true toward both knowledge institutions: It takes a village... and a diverse one at that.

Looking beyond the obvious idea that cooperation, common experience, and connectivity help set the foundations so that such institutions experience success, Conboy also hints that it’s paramount to advocate diversity/fluid communication between niche community facets so that the end result offers broader perspective, increased creativity, and stronger performance.  Although a newsroom context must promote dialogue between advertisers, reporters, editors, and publishers, likewise a classroom context must meld a conversation between principal, superintendent, parent, faculty, administrators, and students.  A combination requiring time, technological advances, developing relationships, and continuing to review operational practices – as Conboy so eloquently points out- will only solidify the strong foundation pertaining to journalism, but also to education.

So if the modern education litmus success test measures how well educational institutions blend the infinite range of resources, personalities, and communication between one another then its possibly fair to offer that the (ironically sing-song) cast from the hit TV series Glee might be just the type of K12 environment parents vote to build locally.  Again, the recurring trend stands paramount- diversity brought together to learn, debate, heck even sing when the mood so strikes the classroom.  Upon striving to understand Conboy’s above observations and relate them to how a 21st century classroom works, try imagining a newsroom, science lab, museum gallery or film set void everything except one person running the show.  Certainly possible – but not at all practical; when an innovative domain (schools, museums, the arts, etc) loose the expansive, colorful, misfit cast of characters who each contribute to the holistic narrative- collaboration amongst the community falls away leaving only a stagnant, archaic structure.

Despite the challenges facing today’s educational institutions, it’s quite fortunate that digital media continues to open never-before engaging opportunities and ways to generate discussion between participants both inside and outside the classroom.  Elearning trends such as class blogs, school Facebook Fan Pages, Teacher Twitter accounts reveal that communication between a school’s community doesn’t necessarily need to occur between 1st and 8th period.  Arguably when one sets out to pursue 21st century knowledge, they’ll need the ability to engage openly.. and also possibly sing and dance.

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