Saturday, March 31, 2012


I will have to be honest, of all of the technologies that we have learned to this point, I was most fearful of podcasts. Blogs, wikis, and other technologies (though I have not used them much-or at all in the classroom) I had no apprehension about using. Likely, this is due to the amount of time that I spend online each day, and the ability to navigate and post things on the web. I have been posting to message boards (that are very similar to wikis) and using social media sites for some time now. But podcasts? No experience whatsoever. I have never recorded my own voice on my laptop, nor have I created a podcast for any reason. My ITunes account only has one downloaded podcast to it, and to be honest, it has nothing to do with education.

Can podcasts be useful for education? Alter this week, I am 100% convinced that podcasts can serve as a great educational tool. Once a teacher gets comfortable with the technology itself, there are a variety of ways a podcast can be used. Teachers can record lectures, and post them on teacher websites for note purposes, or for absent students. Students can collaborate on a project, and can edit their own work before posting it to the web. Students can create guided questions for a class, and even create individual homework assignments based on questions that are created for the class. Whatever the usage, there are 21st century skills evident in the usage of podcasts. Students can work with one another to do research and use their creativity in the completion of their podcast. They are using critical thinking skills to make these decisions as well.

This week, we were tasked to interview a few of our students about technology in the classroom, and create a podcast with our findings. Truthfully, this assignment terrified me, and at the beginning of the week I was unsure of my completion of the work. I really had no idea about the sound recorder on my laptop, and was nervous about that as well. I could not have been more relieved about the ease of that as well. Recording the audio from my students was simple, efficient, and very worthwhile. My students came up with some tremendous responses to guided technological questions, and were very eager to share their beliefs with me on the audio. I interviewed six students this week, and all six had some very interesting things to say about technology. Though they all admitted to using technology in school, they seemed a bit confused as to what I was referencing. All six mentioned the use of laptops and interactive white boards, along with three referencing PowerPoint as a technological tool. While all of this DOES mean that students are using technology, I doubt that these technological skills truly incorporate what we are searching for in regards to 21st century skills. PowerPoint is a computer based program, but many teachers (me included) use it as a technological means to replace standard note taking. Interactive white boards are great, but how many lessons are designed to have the students being the ones interacting? Each student referenced laptops and computers, and how they were used "a lot" in the classroom. I cannot see this as a possibility. Each student referenced spending about an hour a day at home online. Seven hours a week at home, and I am fairly certain that this is a low-end number. Students MAY spend one hour a week in school online. Frankly, this is not enough.

I truly believe that podcasting can be a way to combat this. Giving students a topic, having them brainstorm their ideas, then recording their ideas, and finally posting their ideas truly touches upon their needs for interactive learning and creativity. It also certainly touches on critical thinking skills. We may want to omit mentioning the critical thinking part to the students though, because I know my students hear those two words together, and the group lets out a collective groan. Having them think and collaborate often leads to wonderful results, and the more comfortable I get with this technology I will certainly be more apt to use it in the classroom.

Here is the podcast that I created for the application for this week:

for download:

Though I did find the podcast settings easy, I did have a bear of a time getting this file onto the podcast site. I hope you enjoy!


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

21st Century Skills

As educators, we continually have to be aware of shifts in the overall approach to classroom education. Day by day, technology becomes a greater impact on both our lives, and the lives of our students. With ever growing urgency, today's schools need to be cognizant of the impact that technology brings our students, or we run the risk of losing them in our classrooms. In this ever-growing time of need for schools, we appear to be failing our students in this regard. Our students spend on average over 35 hours in the classroom a week. Studies have shown that only 15 MINUTES of that time is spent on the Internet. The same students, on average, spend more than 27 HOURS on the Internet at home (Miners & Pascopella, 2007). I find this mind-boggling statistic to be terrifying. Our students are craving to learn through online models, and through either lack of funding, or lack of training for the teachers, that craving is going unsatisfied.

How can we quench the thirst for knowledge? For one thing, it is becoming clearer by the day that the method of book learning is frankly not going to work with today's student. They get information at their fingertips through their cellphones and the Internet, or the Internet on their cellphone. A new skill set is needed, and that is why the 21st century skill set was established. 21st century skills focus on what we have been teaching, however they teach it in a new way. Learning and innovation skills are central to 21st century learning, focusing on what Partnership for 21st Century Skills calls the "4 Cs". (Partnership for 21st century skills, 2011). Critical thinking, communication, creativity, and collaboration all make up these "4 Cs", which are an essential piece to create positive student outcomes. Life and career skills, along with information and technology skills are also desired outcomes for students. Our tried and true 3 Rs also are essential to the core of 21st century skills, and it takes support systems to get us to that point. Standards and assessments along with curriculum and instruction make up two of the support systems in place. Professional development and learning environments make up the final two layers of this framework (Partnership, 2011).

What does this all mean? I believe it is saying that through technology, students will be exposed to different opportunities to collaborate and learn new ways to work. Teachers will need to provide students with meaningful learning opportunities, and relate much of what is being taught to the lives of their students. Any learner is much more eager and willing to learn when the topic is fun and relevant to them. Our students are getting their information at home in different ways, and in order for them to truly grasp our classroom activities, we need to present them that knowledge in a variety of ways. This means quite a bit of change is necessary in the classroom. New lesson plans need to be implemented. New resources need to be purchased. Maybe most importantly, a willingness to teach the new technology needs to be established in the teacher. This is no small task, but for our students to truly grasp what is being taught, isn't it worth it?

However, I think there are a few flaws in the 21st century skill set. To me, the elephant in the room is standardized testing. To be fair, most school districts will tell you that they 'don't teach to the test'. To be even fairer, I don't believe most of those school districts. With changes to the common core and standards that need to be implemented into a lesson plan, how on Earth are teachers going to be able to incorporate all of these ideas into their classroom, when the majority of what is being taught is geared towards standardized tests? There needs to be an abundance of training in place for these 21st century goals to be fully incorporated, and frankly, where does this time come from? While lessons can certainly incorporate newer technologies and critical thinking skills into the classroom, being able to do all of that while achieving all goals required for standardized testing, state and national standards, and core curriculum information seems to be nearly impossible given the time constraints of our jobs.

So how do we get there? I don't know yet. However, I think that these 21st century skills are vital for where are students are going. We just need to continually search for ways to integrate newer technologies into the classroom. After all, this blog continually reminds us to take baby steps to get there.


Miners, Z., & Pascopella, A. (2007). The new literacies. District Administration, 43(10), 26–34. Used by permission.

Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (2011). Washington, D.C.: Author. Retrieved from:

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Blogging in the Classroom....easy? I'm not sure yet.

As I continue to get more comfortable with the whole process of blogging, one must be left to wonder how a blog can be best used in a classroom setting.  This educator, for one, is not yet sure yet.  Our classroom readings so far make it all sound so easy....but I am definitely intimidated.  I know that I definitely will have to check our district's internet usage policies, go through our lessons to see what is going to work best, and go over the proper way for my students to post information online.

Once I get this set up, the biggest challenge for me is going to be finding a topic to discuss with my students.  I teach seventh grade world geography, and our current unit is on Southern Africa....and we spend an abundance of time on South Africa itself.  I am not yet sure that I am comfortable enough with blogs for my students to discuss some of the bigger issues in the region (apartheid/AIDS) online.  Students are likely to struggle initially with the concept of posting their information, and they may not be comfortable with the technology itself.  My uncomfortability plus their uncomfortability....that's not a good mix.  I need to be very sure of the whole process before I even think about using it in the classroom.

In order for my students to be more comfortable with the technology, I first need to do the same.  I strongly believe that though students are aware of blogs and blogging, they may not see the functionality of it in the classroom.  Showing the students that I have created my own blog will show them that it can be done, and used for pertinent classroom discussions. 

Just as I pointed out last week, I need to take baby steps.

I wish I could have found a shorter clip, but I'm ok with any excuse to watch this movie.

Unknown Author.What About Bob?.mov.  [Video File].  Retrieved from: