Friday, January 27, 2012

Does technology have to be engaging and entertaining?

So I came across this article which discusses how schools are behind in utilizing the skills todays students have with digital technology.  For the most part, I do agree.  I've always thought that when we meet students half-way, or even part way, we are doing them a great service by a.) acknowledging them (you'd be surprised, many teachers don't come CLOSE to doing this) and b.) we are making what seems practical to them a learning experience.

I really liked this article, because it showed how there can be educational value in texting, tweeting and social networking.  Like the author, I balked when my administration tried to "shut down" the internet or (worse) tell me I only had the intranet to use. (ew!)  Overall, Luscre makes some great points and provides some practical examples of how instructors can teach using these technologies. My big beef with the article, however (besides the over-used OMG! in the title) is that he keeps referring to these as fun and engaging methods for teaching.  While I think many students would be engaged and maybe even have fun, I worry when technology used the hook "fun" to entice students and educators.  As an educator and as an eductor of educators (got that?), I clearly believe that if students are engaged that they will benefit.  But what I cannot tolerate is the label of FUN that is assumed when one uses technology.  (I really don't like absolutes like that, because it also infuriates me when people identify technolgy with the word "trouble.") 

I guess I'm on the soapbox regarding this article because I want individuals to learn that using technolgy is necessary because it's the way of the future.  Sure, it seems silly to ask students to tweet a summary of a short story, but hey, learning to work with parameters and limitations is a real world skill, is it not?

Overall, it's a great article if you are considering how to utilize technology in the classroom.

Friday, January 20, 2012

An awesome organization for all English Language Arts Teachers

So if you are an English Language Arts teacher or pre-service teacher and you have not heard of NCTE, you will most certainly want to check out this organization.  Becoming a member is cheaper if you are a student, so if you are, consider joining.  There is a weekly "in-box" update with links to articles and sources.  There are a plethora of journals to subscribe to, and most importantly there is the national convention every November. I can't tell you how AMAZING this convention is. True, it can be costly...but this November it's in Vegas, so I say....make a trip out of it.

I could say many, many more great things about NCTE, which by the way stands for National Council of Teachers of English (sorry, got ahead of myself and forgot to mention that) but I'd rather you check out the links.

If you are a student of mine, I would certainly consider joining today.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Technology in the English Languge Arts Classroom

So this semester I will be teaching one methods course called Writing for Non-Print Media.  I am very much looking forward to this course for several reasons. First of all, I have a passion for non-traditional assessments.  So much of what we do in schools is print or language-based.  We read, we write, we speak. We regurgitate.

However, we live in a world that extends beyond words.  For instance, my g-mail updated to a new version a few weeks ago and when I wanted to delete an e-mail it took me a bit of time to find out that the word "delete" is no longer an option.  Eventually I found and icon of a garbage can.  Duh!  I'm not saying that I am for or against a semiotic world, but just want to point out that we use symbols, signs and images a lot...and that we need to teach our students how to view, understand, analyze and comprehend these.

So back to my point about assessments....I have always favored assessments that enabled me to do some sort of visualization.  Whether it was a video or a power point, or even a collage...I thrived on these and went WAY above and beyond what I needed to do for the assignment because I could use strongest "intelligence."  (See Gardner's Multiple Intelligences if you are interested in leaning about a variety of ways in which we learn.  It's cool.)  

So as an educator, I have always been sensitive to alternative assessments that value multiple intelligences and extend beyond simply writing or responding to a prompt.  Now, that doesn't mean that I don't value writing and LANGUAGE....of course I do.  But I just feel that there are occasions when we as educators can extend BEYOND THE SINGLE MODE OF LANGUAGE to offer more MULTIMODAL opportunities for student learning.

Another reason I look forward to teaching the course is because I learn alongside with the students.  There is a plethora of technology out there.  And rather than using technology for the sake of using technology...I like to give my students opportunities to research and consider these types of technologies and find meaningful ways to use (or not use) them.

For instance....I wanted to use Tumblr a, very, very simple blogging tool for this course.  However, after spending some time on the site, I realized that while it is a very good tool for blogging, it is mostly used for re-posting content.  Yes, you can write posts....but it looks like it's more used with mobile devices and I even saw the word "microblogging" on the Tumblr page.  While that is a nice tool...I need something a little more traditional in the way of blogging for this course.

My point is...the students (and I) can sift through this technology throughout the semester....and discuss both in class and in blogs WHAT is out there...and HOW it MIGHT (or might NOT) be used in the classroom.  Afterall, there is an abundance of information out why not work together to learn about it.  Right?

Getting Started

Hi All.

My name is Tim Oldakowski and I am an English Professor at Slippery Rock University, in the small town of Slippery Rock, PA, located about 45 miles north of Pittsburgh, PA.  I teach both English courses as well as English Education courses.  One of the courses I teach is called Writing for Non-Print Media, and in the course my students will be keeping blogs.  I figured this would be the best time for me to model what I teach by keeping a blog myself.

While I have used, researched and even written about blogs, I have never kept one myself.  I decided that this would be the best time to start one, and like my students the focus is going to be on education.

The students in my course will keep a blog focused on what they are learning during the semester, not only in my course, but in other courses as well.  I'm hoping that they will use the blog as a space to reflect upon what they are learning as pre-service teachers during the spring 2012 semester.  Obviously I hope that the students enjoy blogging and network with others so that they can continue to use the blog even after the course ends in May 2012.

I, and hopefully my students, will keep a casual tone.  This is simply a place to reflect, to share, to connect and to prosper as educators and as future educators.

I'm sure I will be updating quite a bit in the next few weeks as I will want my students to have a model from which to work from.

So, here it is.  The first entry in Oldakowski's Educational Stuff.  I hope you enjoy.

Dr. Timothy Oldakowski
English Department
Slippery Rock University