To use or not to use…

This week in my online class, we were asked to review some of the technologies we have used over the course of the first few weeks.   When I was finished, I thought it made sense to put that information here as well. I am sure as I go along I can find some place to include this and add to it, creating a usable review format for others.  Until then, grab a cup of coffee and skip the parts you don’t want to read. *For those in the class, sorry if you are seeing this twice.

A classmate mentioned that GoogleDocs saves the issue of the ever forgotten flash drive.  He also asked the question of kids really being interesting in blogging if it isn’t for social reasons.  I agreed that GoogleDocs and GoogleReader are great! I used GoogleDocs for a group project & presentation last semester. It doesn’t get much easier than that for 6 people who have jobs in schools and families to produce a document and presentation, all having input and not losing any of the work. I nearly forgot how wonderful it is until this school year when I left my flash drive sitting in my computer at work. I digress; for your sake, I will address each technology independently.  Do not hold me to high writing standards on this one though, as time doesn’t permit for perfect publishing.

GOOGLEDOCS:
As for students using GoogleDocs- I don’t know that GoogleDocs or our school’s network is ready to have 20+ students in there are the same time. My partner for this week’s assignment and I created a lesson plan and did project with our 5th and 1st grades together. They read a book and produced book reviews that are to be posted on GoogleDocs. They will then (hopefully, with permission) be able to later vlog their reviews so that we can publish them, allowing classmates to view and pick what book they might like to read next. We mimicked the use of GoogleDocs though, using our network drive at school for the following reason:
Proper use of GoogleDocs requires students to all have email addresses, register for, and log in to a Google account. We would not have had the time to make all of that happen in just one week. I also did not know if we would get permission for all of the students to have accounts. I have since realized a workaround. As my youngest is sitting here using First in Math, I realized I could create Google email accounts using “magic numbers” and every year, just change the passwords. Account logins and passwords be on index cards and could be handed out when the kids go to a computer. They would then be monitored by the teacher and students would know they are not personal emails, but used to do this kind of work at school. Concerns of this method would be the ramp up time for teacher! Also the account must continually be monitored in case an account would get spammed with something you do not want to have the students see!!

VIDDLER:
Great idea. It could still use some upgrades. The user view is congested and confusing. This might be due in part of the free nature of the site. For first graders DEFINITELY and even fifth graders, it would require the teacher to handle the imbedding of the videos into an organized format. To imbed them on a classroom blog would also require teachers to have some understanding. I was using my MAC and it would not imbed as it claims it should have. I am sure it was an OS thing. I was able to produce a work around, but it was frustrating at midnight when trying to get it done.
PRO – Videos can be set to private and passwork protected.
CON – People might not realize, you can do this same thing (password protect and make private videos) on YouTube. More people are already versed in YouTube and might not deal with as much of a learning curve time.

WORDPRESS:
This I can live with this. I like it. It is, in my mind, just a living document. It is similar to GoogleDocs where accessibility of internet-based sites makes it worthwhile. For me, I wanted to blog those experiences and thoughts of teaching as was always encouraged. It would make my life easier that someone else’s server is housing my thoughts as opposed to my own journal which can easily be misplaced.

PRO: For students it can be made private and by invitation onliny where they can answer questions and others can see and reflect on those answers. This allows for the classes to be almost continual, helping with that time battle where we only see kids for 40 or 50 minutes a day and that includes time to get them settled and packed up. Also, to the aforementioned classmate’s RIGHT ON comment about students who do not do the work or read the assigned text will not be able to blog any more then they can participate in the discussion in class, I think the blog might nudge just a couple more to get the work done rather then skate by. With some, we will never win that battle. Although there are a couple (OK, I might be one of them!) that once you say, “I will be looking for each of your comments” who might begrudgingly find time to get the work done. Otherwise, they would sit in class and just pray they could sneak through without getting called on because the eager ones are so busy managing the conversations.

CON: When blogging people, especially teachers, need to remember that this is not your average journal. If you were ever concerned as a child a sibling would be able to steal your journal and share it with the world, you know the reality. Whatever you put in cyper space, even if you THINK it is protected because of a password or privacy settings, know that there is always going to be someone with the knowledge and desire to get your information. While you could blog your annoyances in a private, passwork protected site for years with NO problem, do you want to be that one teacher having to fight a school board for your job back because someone got ahold of that information and used it against you? Do you want to be the teacher trying to argue that what one of your students was in fact only having an open dialogue about the Scarlet Letter and the comments were not inappropriate for the setting of the blog. The typed (written) word is often less easy to argue then the spoken in a classroom setting. IN OTHER WORDS: BE MINDFUL ALWAYS of what is being typed.

TWITTER:
The world needs to stop tweeting. I hate it. Sorry folks. I find it to be like the meeting: the downfall of corporate America. It takes more time to produce a 140 statement then it should if you are truly considering and thinking about what others in your group are saying. Oh, sorry, I mean “tweeting.” I would rather see students blog. I am always battling the students’ desire to give one word answers that are not in complete sentences. Twitter doesn’t help my cause! I want complete, thought out answers. That doesn’t mean students need to have a dissertation for an answer, but correct grammar and complete sentences, YES! Therefore, if Twitter could add a feature (as my brilliant father-in-law once remarked) where it wouldn’t post until you had correct spelling and grammar, then we can talk! Until then, I will continue to cringe as I did yesterday when a student, while typing a book review, typed “u” instead of “you.” Students may not even be able at the elementary/middle level to determine where txt slang is K & it’s not. Furthermore, I have NOT heard too much in the news about people being nailed for the complete and well-prepared statement the way they have been over the hasty and poorly worded “tweet.”

OVERALL TECHNOLOGY ISSUE: We are still dealing with issues of accessibility. I ask all of the students’ parents in my class to answer a question on the information sheet asking if there is a computer with internet access that the student can use for homework. Each of the last two years at least one student has not. Therefore, I never make an assignment requiring a computer mandatory homework. There are ways around this, having a computer in the back of the classroom and/or lab access, but I have encountered MANY teachers these days who assume all students have access and I am SO annoyed (don’t know if that is the correct word – maybe concerned) by that. Even in our house where there are 2 laptops and 1 ancient computer, all with wi-fi access, with 6 people trying to get work done between the houses of 4 pm-9 pm, it can get tricky.

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