Monday, September 29, 2014


I really like how in2books operates like a global book club. The fact that the pen pals the students would be working with are adults, students are provided with encouragement from adult figures they may not have in their own lives. Much of our educational research shows that students especially rely on the influences of their parents and teachers when it comes to treating their education. By placing students with an adult intended on promoting education, children have the comfort of knowing there is an adult out there that supports them. Furthermore, students get a glimpse in the global environment they are apart of, where they are given access to individuals from around the world, something they cannot simply do when up to their own devices.

Additionally, the McGraw-Hill World Languages Projects allows students from different parts of the globe to pair up and learn about one another. The program advocates students getting to know various cultures and ways of living, contingent to NYS Common Core Standard 5, which requires students to "demonstrate cross-cultural knowledge and sensitivity in communicating with others of varied social, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds". This can be assessed when the students are to present on their global partner, and the student will be able to share with his/her class about a cultural background different from their own.

ePals is a wonderful way of connecting young students with other young students just like them from different parts of the world. While I'm not sure how such a program will be utilized in classrooms from a lower SES, I can value their pursuit in starting global connectivity at a young age.

Google + Community

The Google+ Community page reminded me of the Pinterest accounts we developed last week. I like that Community looks like an interactive space where teachers can share links and resources effectively. That way, members can obtain valuable resources quickly and easily, and the fact that everything is shared by members ensures that the material posted will be relevant and helpful. The English Language Teaching community will be especially useful for this class, as well as some other communities I found such as Google Apps for Education and Education Revolution. Such a network of teachers with similar specialties and interests creates a database that we can learn new things and incorporate into our own classroom. After using Diigo and Pinterest, I'd have to say this may be the first tool I'd use when struggling to come up with new ideas or when looking for the latest information about my field.

A Learner is Like a Chain

In all of the discussions about networks and connections, I think a chain is the perfect analogy to describe the modern learner. The more links a student acquires, the stronger the chain. In other words, the more connections a learner can make, and the more network he/she can be apart of, the more skill sets they learn allowing them to form a solid foundation of knowledge. Furthermore, links are constantly being developed and added as technology advances and various social mediums arise.

As Siemens discusses in The Changing Nature of Knowledge, "The learners themselves, the connections they form with each other, the connections they form with databases, with other sources of knowledge, is really the primary point of learning. So in essence, the network becomes the learning". According to Siemens, knowledge no longer rests strictly under the cognitive and behavioral realm that education has insisted on for decades. Rather, learning exists within the scope of connections and networking. This is in response to the altering complexities in our environment. Siemens claims, "Because of the complex environment that we’re in, learning isn’t something that’s exclusively limited or occurs exclusively within an individual’s mind". Our propensity to use technology and social media networks is in direct response to a changing standard of behavior. As Siemens discusses in The Conflict of Learning Theories With Human Nature, it is our human nature to want to externalize our thoughts and feelings in a social setting. Therefore, "Our challenge then as educators is finding a way to value and foster that human need that we have to be expressed with other ideas and to focus less on trying to bring knowledge into a person and more on developing skills for our learners so they’re able to go out in fairly complex knowledge environments today and function in a distributive manner"

Such "distributive manner" that Siemen discusses in his videos is also reflected in his article A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. Siemen believes that as today's environment changes, learners are required to draw information from outside of their primary knowledge. Knowledge acquisition is no longer an internalized notion, rather must be obtained outwardly and to "synthesize" powerful connections. This follows the scientific methodology of Chaos, which "recognizes the connection of everything to everything". Such meta-awareness of the connections we have made/are being made onto us is the ultimate guide in obtaining new knowledges that are not as easily acquired cognitively. As Siemens discusses, learning is no longer under the limitations of the individual. Siemens states, "Learning (defined as actionable knowledge) 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."

I think this relates back to my chain analogy where it's not entirely the strength of the chain that's important, it's the connective capabilities of the chain that makes it an asset to society. Yes, the strength of the metal is valued, but the strength of one link alone cannot get a job done. Rather, it is the link's ability to connect with others in that allows a distribution of strength that only grows as more links are made. This is ultimately what the modern learner must adhere to in today's complex society. It's not enough to simply acquire a set of knowledge. Instead, the modern learner is expected to utilize one's external environment in creating strong bonds of knowledge. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Pinterest vs. DIIGO

After utilizing both Pinterest and DIIGO to explore educational sites and resources, I was able to better understand the various tools teachers have today to better access important and relevant information to improve their classrooms. I have outlined my findings below:


  • Visuals are used to represent websites and resources that are eye-catching and more easy to understand
  • Various boards allow users to organize pins
  • The website shows the other users and boards that have used the same pin you have posted
  • Users you follow are displayed in your home page as they pin new posts and create new boards
  • The website makes suggestions for people to follow and boards to view
  • Unable to highlight any important information 
  • Pins don't always provide immediate access to idea represented; Sometimes pin takes you to general website other than specific idea
  • The website displays the tags you have used for a more clear access to resources you need
  • You can highlight specific areas of the websites, making it easier to find relevant information in your resources
  • Provides clear and concise list of websites you have chosen, with the guidance of tags to more easily access what you need
  • Ability to follow others and see what they are posting
  • Website strictly provides links to websites you have bookmarked - doesn't automatically provide visuals
  • More difficult to follow members - have to verify yourself, which didn't work for every profile I tried to follow
  • No recommendations for people to follow or bookmarks to view

Though I have found areas in which I prefer DIIGO over Pinterest, I would have to say overall I think Pinterest is more effective in organizing my resources and relevant websites. The capabilities of DIIGO felt very similar to simply bookmarking a website on my Mac, minus the ability to tag. Though this is a valuable aspect of DIIGO, the tags I used were mostly the same, and it was hard to find specific tags to make the process effective. With that said, I feel Pinterest's use of visuals allows for a more interesting display of resources, and this eye-catching aspect to this is ultimately what makes the process easier and more enjoyable. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Hey Teachers...

As if we needed Ryan Gosling's motivation to create a stronger education system, it's no secret that many schools in our education system today are falling behind when it comes to technology in the classroom. Antiquated techniques and outdated resources (though valuable for their designated time) fall short to the fast-paced, technologically-driven society we are living in today. The integration of Smart Boards was one of the many small steps schools have taken to improve class production and efficiency, and as we delve further into a era of social media, interactive resources such as blogs, Twitter, and other multimedia programs have created new opportunities for more efficient styles of learning both in and outside of the classroom.

The video The Networked Student shows you the ways in which students today are using interactive media sites to build connections that are integral to their education. Under the theory of "connectivism", learning exists as a social media outlet of diverse connections. Such connections are more valuable than the actual tools being used, and a stronger, more efficient learning environment is established. As the video takes you through the life of an average student, we see how interactive media sites allow the student to branch out and find new and exciting resources that provide him/her with information. Through programs such as Google Scholar and iTunes, the student's access to information exceeds far beyond the limitations of textbooks and encyclopedias, and instead provides first-hand access to validated articles, interactive classrooms, and real life experts in their field. This allows the student to create a "virtual textbook" of primary and secondary sources, and can effectively and immediately post his new information for other students to see. The teacher, then, can instruct the student on the best means to build these networks, provide guidance when the student struggles, and give the student instruction on how to effectively communicate and organize information in the technological sphere.

Just as "The Networked Student" illustrates what the student is doing with media and technology, Vision of 21st Century Teachers shows how teachers today are utilizing new sources of information, and how this benefits the student. Some examples include using blogs that allow students to post their opinions on what they are reading in class, creating Wikis to construct knowledge about new subject matter, and providing cameras for students to create multimedia projects. In doing so, the teachers are providing their students with an open space for communication, information, and expression that cannot be fully gained in a classroom. Furthermore, utilizing the global space of technology allows students to reach out to not only various scholars, but their own peers from around the world. Such connectivity is crucial to a student's development in the 21st century as we prepare them for the global community that is only becoming smaller for us today.

I have to admit I was never completely on board with the emergence of technology in the classroom. While I saw its benefits, I worried that students too dependent on technology will fail to be self-sufficient in their later years. While I still recognize this as a potential threat, I feel more at ease seeing firsthand how many aspects to technology and social media can improve the overall depth and variety of education today. To put it simply, strictly using books and articles places too many limitations on what a student can learn, and as an educator it would be my job to open various avenues of information and higher development of learning. More importantly, technology creates a sphere of education for ESL learners and provides them with a smoother transition into a new place of education, allowing them to feel more comfortable with themselves and more connected to their environment.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Blogging in a Classroom Setting

The ways in which I would incorporate blogs into the classroom corresponds with the New York State Standards in ESL  specifically for grades 9-12. The two standards which I would utilize include ESL4: Language for Social Interaction, and ESL5: Language for Cross-Cultural Knowledge and Understanding. I have outlined below the specific requirements for each standard, as stated by New York State :

1. Language for Social Interaction; Performance Indicator 1A  and 1B (ESL4.C.1A, ESL4.C.1B)

  • Students use a variety of oral, print, and electronic forms for social communication and for writing to or for self, applying conventions of social writing
  • Students describe, read about, participate in, or recommend a favorite activity, book, song, or other interest to various audiences
2. Language for Cross-Cultural Knowledge and Understanding
  • Students will demonstrate cross-cultural knowledge and sensitivity in communicating with others of varied social, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds. They will develop and use culturally appropriate behaviors, and a knowledge of local and US cultures and practices, in their interactions with others in their new cultural environment

As stated in Language for Social Interaction, the use of blogs would open a sphere of communication for which students can practice their English reading and writing skills. I would be able to post pictures and videos to connect an academic theory or idea (i.e. places in the home) with a concrete visual of, say, a kitchen and living room. The students then can have a better understanding about our use of words such as "kitchen" and "bathroom", and from there establish a literal and visual vocabulary of other components such as "refrigerator" or "bathtub". By establishing these visual and written components, students can then comment about what their room looks like, what their favorite room in the house is, what their dream house looks like. Such discussion allows for creative thinking within a sphere of immediate, open communication.

Additionally, I would use a blog to establish a space of cultural acceptance. While my job would be to assimilate students into the English language and culture, it is crucial not to ignore the various backgrounds that exist in the classroom. Through a blog I can showcase various American traditions, such as holidays, cuisine, and entertainment as aspects of American life. Music videos, recipes, and visuals would allow students to better engross themselves into a new way of life and allows them to compare one way of life to another. I would then encourage students to make their own posts about their cultural background, sharing with us what they feel stands out in their own culture. In doing so, students can practice appropriate cultural behavior, and the classroom (and blog-sphere) can be a place of universal acceptance and cultural understanding.