Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Personal Learning Networks: How Sweet It Is!

During the past two weeks, I have also ventured out into the great wide open, implementing Personal Learning Networks with my freshmen classes along with fellow teachers, Anne Smith and Michele Davis. I believe that this may transform my student’s thinking about the world around them. I wasn’t quite sure what to think when we first started. However, they seemed to take to it quite easily. I feel that I have had to give purpose numerous times so that they understand the relevancy and importance of what they are about to dive into. To make one open to the world and to inquire and connect with it can be difficult, especially for freshmen, who sometimes lack in critical thinking skills.

I set the bar high. I expect a great deal from them. Each week, the students are to use Google Reader, a feed site, to search, read, and reflect upon various news/blogs regarding education, the world, and local happenings. I then have them post a thoughtful response on their own personal blogs. Again, we always come back to the What Matters? piece where they really show me what THEY THINK about the text. They are to also connect the pieces to their own lives, the world around them, question, show what intrigues them, and write a formal response. The skills they are acquiring and practicing with these blogs are so rich: reading strategies, critical thinking, personal reflection, summary-response, writing techniques, editing/proofreading, strong diction and fluency, the art of questioning-all of these skills have merit in what we are doing.

I was giddy, for the most part, upon reading their first two blog responses. Students really showed a discerning voice through their writing, and more importantly, allowed these articles and blogs to influence their thinking. Although there is much improvement to be made, I am looking forward to more. I told the students that writing was a work in progress-they have to work at it. They have to be passionate about the world around them and look to find their place in it. I also wrote my own example.

Here are some other great examples from my classes- the only thing we didn’t do this time around was link the original blog or article-that is something standard from here on.

Hannah G. posted on K. Fisch’s blog (The Fischbowl) entitled “Thought for the Day”
I came across an article entitled, 'Thought For The Day 7-12-07'. This article contained an exerpt by Daniel C. Dennett from the book, 'What Is Your Dangerous Idea?', from The Ficshbowl posted by Karl Ficsh. This article asks a thought-churning question of, "What will happen to common knowledge in the future?". As of today, our common knowledge is constantly expanding. Our technology is one major example of our increasing apprehension. We interact with technology everywhere, whether we're at home checking our e-mail, listening to our i-pods, or even going to Kings Soopers and using the self-checkout. I believe that in the future the idea of common knowledge will still be what it is, a basic understanding of things, but it will have grown just as our knowledge has. I agree with the article that our ancestors may have had it easy, and that there wasn't that much to know, but two things cross my mind as I began to think about this statement. Of course our ancestors did not know what we know today, but was there that much to know? This is a difficult question, and I understand that it could have several different interpretations. But as I read this, the first thing I said to myself was, "Well of course there was a lot for our ancestors to know. Look at us today, look how far we've come since then". But I can kind of understand the meaning of what the writer was trying to get at. There is only so much one generation can know. These people are from the same age in time and don't know more than what they know. That's an odd way of saying it, but what I mean to say is that people have certain customs and know certain ways of doing certain things, until one day theres the beginning of a new generation. New people, new minds, therefore, new ideas.
Another part of me began to compare our past to the present. Is there more for us to know? I could answer this question for myself. As unbelieveable to me as it is to say this, looking at our world and seeing our progression through time, I do think the world still has much, much more to learn about itself and everything around it. I almost can't believe the heights technology has reached and how it has impacted my daily life. Just going to school and looking up to the projector for a power point that the teacher has prepared, or using the laptops for research. The world is so dependable on what it has created, that without it, nothing would be the same. So from that, I suspect the world will only progress as time goes on. And as time goes on, our knowledge will expand, and once again, the world will have out-done itself.

Dillon G. wrote about Dave Warlick’s blog, 2 cents Worth entitled “Classrooms of the Future”
In my article "Classrooms for the Future" by Dave in 2 cents worth, a high school in Pennslyvania is getting a taste of future technology in classrooms. Each core (math, english, social studies, and science) classroom will receive one laptop per student, infrastructure, a scanner/printer, webcam, projector and much more.This gift in technology they are receiving will hopefully open up new ideas and paths for learning not only for these students but for the U.S. and world. It may provide so much information that textbooks, learning strategies, and other methods will become obsolete."It may start up some school/district wide recycling programs," a. woody delauder posted, which is a very possible idea.I know I can relate somewhat to this because our school classrooms have some of this technology such as projectors and technical support. This also relates to the world because if it were to get its hands on this, the world would be a much more efficient, imaginative, and successful learning evironment. I hope someday schools around the world will posses this technology to make learning a whole new experience.
Kelsey C wrote about an essay in The Fischbowl
"The only question is how long one can postpone the inevitable." Mr. Karl Fisch asks a simple yet thought provoking question: "In the case of some countries, life spans can be very long, so it is worth asking whether the United States is in adolescence, middle age, or old age. Do science and technology accelerate or offset the demise? And finally, how many stars will be in the U.S. flag in fifty years?" To begin, I do think that the United States will add more states but only about two such as Puerto Rico and Cuba. Since both have already come into consideration in becoming states, I believe they eventually might. I think the United States is adolescence because of all the new technological advances that are being invented everyday. This question is important and matters to everyone, because if we add more states, that adds more population and new ideas, and even raw materials. Having new states could add and bring great things to our country but it could also bring disease, crime and much more. This question connects to our class, because our general question is "what matters" and this is a question that people should worry about and why it matters. Finally, this is important to our world but mostly our country because we would be adding to what we already have, bringing in new land, people, ideas, and the way society may be run. Obviously, this question poses many opinions and no right or wrong answer, but is a question everyone should take into consideration.
Sami M. wrote about the Fischbowl as well
I read "GOAL: Change how kids learn." by Karl Fisch. I think this is a strong piece because it shows that people are out there working and changing the way kids learn. People all over the world are sending money to help and something is getting done. These kids look greatful to be able to have their very own lap top. They are going step by step to making their education the best. They want these kids to be curious with these computers and explore the different things these computers can do. They are planning to send another 100 million this year. I kind of dont like that they are giving each kid their very own lap top because there are also kids in that same area that haven't eaten in days. Yes, it is a great way to start bringing up their intelligence and show them different ways to explore things but should this really be the top of people's priorities. It may not be but it seems to me it is. I love the way they are helping underprivaleged kids but the ones that arn't eating should be taken care of before they get a lap top. Even though I argued against the logic of the lap tops I really do like the idea of them being able to expand their minds through their very own laptops.This is going to make so many kids happy and will be one more step closer to having a higher test score or higher intelligence level in that area.The U.S. has everything it needs and more. I think we should become more active with helping the people that are less fortunate then our own. We have strong educations and are able to go to a stable and dominate school each day. Most take it for granted. We shouldn't, we should all realize that not to far away kids younger than us are working to feed their family. The U.S. helps and sends help, money, and food but not everyone is aware of the disadvantages other places have. Education is the main key of being successful. WIthout education I wouldnt't get anywhere and netiher would anyone else I know. The U.S. should get going and start helping more and more eachday. We might already be helping alot, but I dont see it. People are more concerned about buying the designer clothes or that expensive car, etc. We all take education for advantage. We dont even notice how big of an aspect it is in our lives.

Jeremi G. wrote about Dave Warlick’s 2 cents worth blog
I just read an article entitled “Shhh! I’m Googling My Facts…” from the blog site 2 cents worth by Dave. The article is about a large issue that goes on today with teenagers all over the world, including me. Internet resources found through the “trustworthy” search engine Google. The writer said that teachers used to teach from text books, encyclopedias and other sources printed on books. Wake up people! It is the 21st century, and the online resources are so multiple and easily available, that people are using them much more than books. From a kid’s point of view, it is easy and extremely simple to do. A kid can get his research done in a few minutes online. But teachers look at it with not so positive a view. They prefer their textbooks and maps.When I read this article, I decided to blog about it because it intrigued me and I could relate to it. I use Google all the time for researching papers and tons of other things. It is my home page on my computer. From Google I can go to any website. But, I should apply some techniques that I have learned in my English 9 class (woo-hoo Mrs. Komp!): questioning what I find. When I click on a website with information concerning the topic I typed in up top in the search bar, I automatically assume it’s true. It’s taken for granted that the information searched and the websites that appear on Google are, well, valid. But I need to learn to question what I read, and research it and back it up more thoroughly. When you search something, and the list of websites that come up, they are not arranged from true to incorrect, they are arranged randomly. Anybody can write anything on any website and have it appear on Google. A student researching his paper, or an inquirer just searching for the answer to a question, should either check more than just the first website on the list, to back up the information, or should go to a trusted website. Another website that is largely popular is Wikipedia. Everyone trusts Wikipedia, but it is not always true. The articles can be edited and therefore anything can be changed or put into that article. The validity of resourceful websites, such as Google and Wikipedia, should be challenged and questioned. Don’t always trust the first thing you read on the World Wide Web (www). Always be inquiring and questioning and validating everything you read and see…
To conclude: Friday was the first day for four students from each class to present their blogs to their classmates through formal speaking. I did not do podcasts; I’m not there yet. I did do something a little different. I told the students from the get-go that they must be attentive and respectful to the people speaking, as they will be nervous and possibly scared to stand up in front of their peers and put themselves out there. This went off without a hitch-no problems. I also asked students to watch the person speaking and provide them with feedback as to what went well in their presentation. At the end of each presentation I asked five people to comment on what went well. I was amazed how honest and positive the students were. It also opened my eyes to what they catch on to when watching a person speak. I began to think to myself, as a teacher, that I could learn a few things from their critiques and try to improve in my own verbal instruction-how enlightening! I also asked the students in the audience to ask questions or respond to the comments of the person. Now some of the presenters automatically asked the audience questions (what do you think-how do you see it?). I loved this aspect of the presentation because the students were able to have a dialogue with one another regarding the issues that were presented. Some disagreed constructively; others just talked about how they perceived things to be. To me, this is the ultimate! To see a class start to wonder and think about each other’s responses and then verbally discuss it, is ideal! I want more of this. I don’t want my students just sitting there; I too want them interacting. And it happened! I don’t have them responding to one another on their personal blogs, but we will get there. The fact that these presentations took off into discussions is a plus.

I am so excited about these PLN’s; I feel that my student’s are beginning to see the value of their thoughts and that their voice, even as young teenagers, really do matter. I am deeply intrigued by what they have to say. I appreciate that I have been introduced to this and I can't think of anything better to really have them dive into the issues that MATTER.

I did end up giving them a new handout that I just typed up quickly regarding things to think about when they reflect and the various errors they need to fix in their writing. The beginning paragraph is touchy feely, but I think there came a greater understanding of what I want them to get from this journey.
Personal Learning Network Writing Expectations and Suggestions


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