Tag Archives: technology

Why I Love RSS

~The following post is written for my ECI 512 class, but you may enjoy the read anyway.~

RSS, or Real Simple Syndication, is a way to aggregate all of the information you read on the Internet in one central place that is normally spread out all over the Internet.  RSS users can “subscribe to a website’s content using tools such as newsreaders or aggregators” (Duffy, 2006).  I use RSS feeds to pull in the latest blog posts from the edu-blogosphere that I read consistently. I also use RSS feeds to pull in articles from New York Times, CNN, local news, tech news, and sports.  It’s a great way for me to stay on top of everything I would like to read without spending tons of time checking all the websites to see if they are updated.  You see…RSS feeds have changed the way I read the news.  Instead of going to get the news, RSS feeds allow the news to be sent to me and then I can sort, categorize, read, ignore, or just about anything depending on the RSS tool you use.

RSS feeds have yet to really find a place in education except for among techy teachers.  However, I feel that RSS feeds can be used to improve best practices, create a transparent classroom, and help teachers grow professionally.

How to improve best practices using RSS:

  1. Teachers can compile a list of websites that generate content related to their subject field (Duffy, 2006).  Students can access these feeds when researching to ensure they use creditable websites.
  2. If students are creating current events in your SS class, create an RSS feed of news-bits that have a political bias.  Have students summarize their current event but also analyze and address the bias in the news report.
  3. “In using blogs with students, instead of visiting each student’s individual blog teachers can subscribe to an RSS feed that allows them to obtain instant notifications and updates relating to any new content added…Additionally, students themselves can also subscribe to the feeds of their friends, peers and teachers” (Duffy, 2006).

How to create a transparent classroom using RSS:

  1. Students and parents can be notified of classroom website updates via RSS feeds.
  2. RSS feeds eliminate the need for email subscription lists and parents can be notified of announcements, events, dates, and student news by email.

In order for teachers to grow professionally using RSS, they have to be committed to reading other teacher, administrator, student, or parent blog. While teachers may not always like what they read in the blogosphere, it is important to have your thinking challenged and inspired.  Using RSS aggregators is a great way to bring blog updates about the educational blogosphere right to your computer.  This is the number one way that I use RSS, and I love it!  It’s the best kind of professional development.

While I have been using Google Reader as my RSS reader on my mac and FeeddlerRSS on my iPhone, there are tons of various web-based RSS feeders out there as well as tons of apps for iOS and Android phones.   I encourage all of you to find a few blogs and websites, and then find an aggregator to get started.  If you are daring enough, try using RSS feeds in your classroom and let me know how it goes. Bring the Internet to you!

Sources:

Duffy, Peter and Bruns, Axel (2006) The Use of Blogs, Wikis and RSS in Education: A Conversation of Possibilities. In Proceedings Online Learning and Teaching Conference 2006, pages pp. 31-38, Brisbane.

Mr. Miles…Unplugged

Hi, my name is Luke Miles and I am tech-junkie.  I know the first step is admitting that I have a problem.  I have a problem, and I am not the only one who noticed.  Oh wait…one of my students told me the first step was denial.  I don’t know have a problem.  And the second step is admittance.  I do have a problem, and I am not the only one who noticed.

My fiance once asked what I did last night while she was at work.  I replied, “I watched Steve Jobs unveil the new iPad.”  Then she asked the question I knew was coming, “How long?”  I regrettably admitted, “2 and half hours…give or take.” That’s when she knew my problem was bad…

Now being a tech-aholic is not always a bad thing.  In fact, it has opened up many doors/opportunities for me.  Knowing new and emerging technologies has really helped me to enhance my classroom.  Many of my students have experienced new ways to learn using web 2.0 technologies–something that many of them have never experienced before in a classroom.  We are running twitter accounts, making music videos, creating glogs and web maps, using backchannels during debates, creating voicethreads, and creating websites.

However, it got bad…I mean it got real bad…like really bad…

I was subscribing to RSS Feeds faster than Usain Bolt runs the 40.  I was tweeting in #edchats more rapidly than a speeding bullet.  I think I have lost many of my non-educational followers. My blackberry really had become a crackberry addiction.  I checked my facebook and my fantasy baseball team before going to bed instead of reading.  I mean it was really bad.  Even my students started noticing that I wasn’t actually that cool because I was a little geeky.

So I decided to make a change.  I teach at year around school so every nine weeks we get 3 weeks off.  I decided that during my 3 weeks off (more commonly known in the year-around world as track out) I would unplug from cyberspace.  I signed off from everything.  My fiance reset my passwords to twitter, facebook, nings, my blog etc.  I turned over my computer to my fiance unless I absolutely needed it (I work at a church so I would need it from time to time). I removed my RSS feeds from my mailbox.  They were still there.  I just couldn’t see them.   You know…outta sight, outta mind.  I went to Verizon and switched my phone to a basic flip phone with only texting.  I became completely unplugged.

During this time, I learned a lot about myself and decided to compile a list and share it with all of you guys.  Here it goes…

1) I am really(^7) addicted to social networking (especially twitter) and the blogosphere.  I thought I read news websites, visited CNN.com and my local news affiliate, but OMG…I had missed so much.  I spent so much time receiving the majority of my news in 140 characters or less that I was not even aware of the details/plot twists associated with each news story that twitter failed to include.  Even in the educational realm, I had spent so much time on twitter that I missed a lot of the big picture news in education.  By being plugged in, I was actually becoming more and more unplugged even though I thought I was plugging in and I didn’t realize it until I decided to pull the plug.  Weird…huh?

2) I am much more productive when I am not surfing the web, reading articles/blogs, tweeting, facebooking, or checking fantasy baseball on ESPN.  Not to say that what I do on twitter and the articles/blogs I read are not productive, engaging, or necessary for my job, but I got a few more things done around the house.  I tended the natural areas in my yard, I painted 2 rooms (started a 3rd), and much more.  I was able to finish strong on my second job before the new person stepped in full time. (I worked a church part time as a youth minister while they searched for a full time minister).

3) I found out that I enjoy walking my dog at local parks with my fiance…yeah yeah yeah…I know…sappy, but it’s true.  I never really took longish walks before.  Normally it was a quick stroll around the block and then head back home.

4) My fiance and I nailed down some final details about our upcoming wedding.  Well she nailed down some final details and I just made sure I liked it.

5) I read 3 complete books.  Now this may blow your mind a bit, but I have not read a complete book in quite some time.  Maybe 8-12 months…maybe longer.  However, during this 3 week unplugged period I read The Lightning Thief, A Whole New Mind, and The Lost Symbol.

I think it goes without saying we all need to take a few days off from time to time.  It is not good for our sanity to be so engrossed in an issue than it dominates/controls our lives.  It’s hard to justify reasons to unplug yourself from the educational world because it is such a great cause, but there are things in each of our lives that are more important.

And if I have learned anything since becoming a teacher, it’s that the problems with schools/education will not disappear over night.  They will be right there waiting for when you get back.  In fact, more often than not new problems will arise.  Schools and students need great teachers, but great teachers who are mentally and emotionally drained are worth nothing.  So take a second, wind down, grab Diet Coke, watch a few episodes of House, and read a book…that may be my method of relaxation.  In the end, you will realize how much you needed that break.  I feel re-charged, ready to finish out the year, and tackle any problem in front of me, and I know you will be too.  Enjoy!

The Debate Project

Recently, my students and I just finished learning about the Middle East, but more specifically, we studied the Iraq War from the U.S., the Iraqi, and the world’s vantage point.  It turned out to be a fascinating unit, and my students worked really hard and seemed to really enjoy themselves.   I was so impressed and proud of how hard they worked and how much they chose to learn about the war that I had to share it with all of you.

During the unit, we spent a lot of time preparing for a debate on the Iraq War.  Should we or should we not go to war?  The debate was staged in late 2002, and the students had the opportunity to make the biggest decision in world history.  Should we declare war on Iraq?  However, they were not allowed to choose which side of the argument they were on…

I assigned students to their debate argument: For the War or Against the War.  I did not let them choose which side with hopes it would challenge a few of them to critically analyze the debate from a different point of view…you know challenge their brains a bit.  As individuals, each student had to create 5 arguments supported with facts from creditable sources, an opening argument, a closing argument, and prepare for 3 possible retorts during the argument.  I used a prep sheet to guide them through this process.  We worked on the research part for 3 days in the media center.  At the end of the research, the 2 argument sides worked together to craft 5 of their strongest arguments using all of their individual research, create a dynamic opening and closing statement, and prepare for any possible retorts from the other side of the argument.  Then things got really interesting…

The debate was divided into 3 parts:

1) Real-time Debate:  Each debate team consisted of 5-8 debaters.  These students participated in a regular debate that was filmed.  The students took turns speaking and delivering their arguments in a normal debate format.  Due to school regulations and permission issues, you have to visit my website (http://miles.onfizz.org) to view the debate videos.  Click the video tab at the top and the first 4 will be the debates.

2) Voicethread Debate:  4 students from each class were selected to do their debate through voicethread.  I created a basic voicethread using text to guide the students with prompts through the debate process.  Unlike the real-time debate, these students were responsible for all parts of their argument and the debated against each other 1 on 1, which resulted in 2 complete debates on voicethread.  Below are examples of a voicethread debate completed by 4 of my students:

http://ed.voicethread.com/share/1030758/

http://ed.voicethread.com/share/1030393/

3) BackChannel: The remaining students were given a laptop and put into a backchannel (edmodo) to discuss the real-time debate as it happened right in front of them.  The students critiqued arguments, gave their personal opinions, critiqued delivery, and decided on the winner.  They used their research to judge the students in the debate and used the research to explain their opinion.  Each class tackled this part of the project very differently.  Periodically, I would interject into the discussion with questions to refocus the conversation or get them thinking in a different way.  Unfortunately, due to the lack of my expertise with edmodo, I am not sure how to make a conversation public quite yet, but check back soon and hopefully, I will have it figured out.

Prior to the debate, none of the students knew they were going to be assigned to a voicethread or the backchannel.  I was afraid if I told them about the backchannel or voicethread ahead of time then they might not have worked as hard to prep for the real debate.  However, every student worked very hard and seemed to enjoy the project no matter what role they had in it.  Obviously, once students found out about the other options some wished they could have had a different role, but I gave them the chance to tell me that for next time in their reflection.  Overall, the experience was awesome, and I have never been so proud of how much my students learned through me and their own efforts.

I am back online…Tech-now-logy

Recently @carl_young asked @msstewart and myself to present at NC State for a small group of pre-service teachers.  We were both asked to present on integrating technology in the classroom and discuss the challenges and successes we have had in the classroom.  First of all, let me say that I can teach a room full of 100 7th graders and be completely comfortable.  I can present at a technology conference to a room full of people each with a PhD or much more experience than me and be completely comfortable. However, stick me in a room full of 15 females and one male – all of which I had at least one class with in college – and make me the expert on technology for 20 minutes…sweaty nervous! (Hopefully, they couldn’t tell…)

Both Meredith and I discussed our challenges and successes when integrating technology into our classrooms.  Meredith and I have used a lot of the same technology tools (a few of which I borrowed from her) and shared similar experiences.  I hope the pre-service teachers walked away with at least a few tools they could use and some inspiring thoughts (inspiring could be a stretch, but I’m going with it).  I thought it went really well and we had a lively discussion afterwards with the pre-service teachers.  Overall, A+ effort on all fronts.

However, it got me thinking about what I was really saying during my part of the presentation.  Below you will find the prezi I used to present my presentation.  Simple and to the point.  Take a peak and see what you think.  It may be hard to follow and figure out what I mean by a few things, but just imagine a George Clooney presentation style with a splash of Steve Martin humor and you have me…at least in my mind.

I am currently about 3/4 quarters of the way through my first of year of teaching and here is a list of what I have learned about integrating technology into my classroom.  Let me know what you think.

1. Technology in the classroom should always be used to enhance the learning of the student.  I know that many of you who read this are the ones that will say…DUH and stop reading because you know that already, but please keep going.  It gets really good later on.  Of course, using technology can sometimes (not always) make teaching easier, more fun, and entertaining, but those three things (and others like them) should never be the reason for integrating technology.  Making my job as a teacher easier is never my ultimate goal for doing anything.  If I am making things easier for myself intentionally, then I may not be trying hard enough to enhance my students’ learning.  Technology should only be used to help students learn something in a different way.  I like to think of technologies as carnival mirrors.  Carnival mirrors always show you a different way to look at yourself just as technology can show students a different way to look at the curriculum or (re)deliver the content that I am teaching them.

2.  One of the pre-service teachers asked, “Do you expect your students to use these tools at home?” Great question, and I think I have an answer to that question now (unfortunately, 18 hours later).  I do not expect my students to use the tool at home.  I would love if they did, but I do not expect it because I am realistic.  I would love to steal their online time and fill it with educational and enriching activities, but I know that will not be the case because some of students do not have internet access at home and some students just won’t do it.  So why integrate technology? By now, my students EXPECT ME to provide them with an experience that they have never had before in the classroom (or anywhere…hopefully).  Integrating technology is one of the ways that I provide all of my students with that previously unexperienced experience.  With that being said, I do expect my students to practice what I model in class when they use other technology tools at home (i.e. facebook, youtube, myspace).  I want them to be safe and create a unique, respectable, and contributing online identity.  That is what I expect and that is what my students expect…in a nutshell.

3.  If something doesn’t work, kill it.  Don’t force a technology-based project to be successful in your class.  It will just stress everyone out and ultimately, the students’ learning will suffer in the end.  Instead, if a project is drowning and you can’t save it, just let it sink…straight to the bottom.  Find another float to float on in the deep end.  Perfect example…My classes were all doing the Twitter Project and it was going no where fast.  Parents weren’t responding, only some of my students were responding, and admin was nervous so we just killed it.  In each of my classes, we held a memorial service for the project and bid it farewell.  One of my students even wrote a eulogy for the project.  We all promised to resurrect the project – Frankenstein style – if I get another good idea, but for now, may the Twitter Project RIP.

4. I enlisted a few students to be my tech-princes (they just happened to be all guys or I would have had tech-princesses too).  They help me troubleshoot any tech problems in the class during projects.  I chose them because they already had an interest in technology.  These are the few students that go home and play with the tools I use in class.  Those students are my tech-princes. They are the mini-experts in the class, and to be honest, if I don’t know the answer then one of them always does.  It is a great system and the students love it.  Obviously, it was awkward at first, but the tech-princes have grown into their role and really flourished.

There is more…much more! Like how hard I find it to grade technology-based projects and how other teachers lean on you once you are pinned a techy, but for now, enjoy!