Friday, May 9, 2008

Final Thoughts on Tech Class

Taking UCB's Extended Ed's Integrating Technologies into the Classroom was far more interesting and helpful than I imagined. The original reason the I signed up for the class was, well, I had to to clear my Level II Mild/Moderate Special Education Credential. So, when I signed up I was actually irked that I had to take yet another class. However, after the first class I realized that the class was actually going to force me to become comfortable with using technology in the classroom, and have fun at the same time. This was a good a thing.

The first valuable thing that I learned is how much you can do with Google. Setting up an IGoogle page was fabulous. I now keep my daily schedule on on my IGoogle page, along with my favorite websites, Google chat, as well as my Gmail. I love IGoogle! Next, learning how to create Google Presentations was very helpful. I found it easier than using Power Point. Learning this tool was helpful because now I can try using this when leading professional developments instead of Power Point. I also liked the activity we did in class with Google Presentations. Creating postcards is a great activity that could also be done in the classroom. I know my students would love doing this activity.

Next, I was glad that we went over many websites that my students are already using, such as MySpace, Facebook, and blogging. It is so important to understand these websites for both personal knowledge, and to understand what our students are getting into. I also found it helpful to read articles on web safety for children. I thought this information was very important, and it is something that we must explicitly teach our students because the web can be a dangerous place.

Being introduced to podcasts was also great. I love the variety of podcastst that are out there, and I especially love NPR's podcasts. This is another great tool teachers can use in the classroom. We can play lectures, or even record our own podcasts for students to listen to.

One of my favorite activities was using Shutterfly to create a digital photobook. This was fun to do as an adult, and would be a great activity for students to do. I also enjoyed working with Inspiration to create graphic organizers. It is a wonderful resource that I will continue to use since I love to create visuals for students and teachers. Next, creating a Hotlist through Filamentality was also a great tool to have as an educator. I was able to create a Hotlist about ADHD that both students and teachers can use to learn more about ADHD. Making a Hotlist is such a wonderful web-based activity that students will love. I definitely plan on using these activities in the future.

I must say, one of the more entertaining activities was creating a Utube video with my partner Jodi. The experience itself was fun, and I'm sure my students will love to do this. I am shocked that anyone can put almost anything on the Internet. I am very excited to help my students create Utube videos.

Finally, creating Webquests through Questgarden was time consuming, but definitely a great activity to use with students.

If I had to pick one acivitiy that was the most valuable, and the one which I will use the most it will most likely be creating Hotlists. They are fun, easy, and can be very informative.

Overall, I thought the class was incredibly helpful. I think all teachers should take this class because it was so informative. I will definitely be using many of the above mentioned activities and websites with my students. I only wish that I had more time to spend working on some of the above mentioned projects. Considering I am taking two classes through Sonoma State as well as this technology course, I didn't have enought time to spend really examining and playing around with more of the websites. Ideally, I would have loved to have taken this class when I wasn't taking other classes at the same time. That being said, it was a great class!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Right Brain Rising

Daniel Pink's recent book, A Whole New Mind, begins with an intriguing chapter called, "Right Brain Rising." In this chapter, Pink discusses the progression in thinking about how the left and right brain each operate. His chapter begins as he tells the story of how he decided to become part of a study on brain imaging. The study involved looking at images of the brain at work, and at rest. In the past scientists and doctors have used machines that were able to take brain images. The old machines were able to create what look like portraits. With recent advances in technology, now scientists can use functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI), which captures the brain in action. Researchers ask subjects to do various activities such as humming tunes, looking at pictures, and listening to songs. The FMRI tracks the parts of the brain to which the blood flows. This new technology has allowed doctors and researchers to learn more about the human experience- "from dyslexia in children, to the mechanisms of Alzheimers to how parents respond to a baby's cries." (pg. 9)

After Pink described the research that he took part in, he went on to discuss the new advances in our knowledge of the brain. The corpus callosum divides the brain into two parts, the left and right hemisphere. Until recently, many people believed that left side was the crucial side, and the right side was not as important. However, in the 1950s, Roger Sperry did a study on patients who had their corpus callsums removed. By studying these patients, Sperry realized that although humans have two separate hemispheres, he found the right hemisphere wasn't inferior to the left. The two halves were just different.

So, the next question that Pink asks is what are the functions of each part of the brain?

Let's look at the differences of the left and ride side of the brain.

Sperry discovered that the left hemisphere reasoned sequentially, excelled at analysis, and handled words. He then found that the right hemisphere reasoned holistically, recognized patterns, and interpreted emotions and nonverbal expressions. Pink then breaks it down more specifically, and states that the left hemisphere controls the ride side of the body, and the right hemisphere controls the left side of the body. For example, if you tap your left foot, the right hemisphere was responsible for that action.
Next, Pink states that the left hemisphere is sequential, and right hemisphere is simultaneous. An example of this is when you read. The left hemisphere reads words from left to right. While the left brain is decoding each word, the right hemisphere is interpreting things simultaneously. This right side of our brain allows us to see many things at once. Scientists believe that the right hemisphere allows us to recognize faces.
Next, and what I personally think is an amazing difference between the two hemispheres of the brain, is that the left hemisphere specializes in text; the right hemisphere specializes in context. For example, lets imagine that you and your significant other make plans to have friends over for dinner. You tell your friends, and significant other to come over around 6:30. You also instruct your significant other to pick up a bottle of wine on the way home from work. When you significant other shows up at 7, you are there with your friends. When your significant other walks in the door, he immediately says, "oh, I'll go to the store to get the wine." Almost all brains, would understand that he is going to the wine store down the road. Your left brain interpreted the literal meaning of the words. However, the right brain understood another aspect of the exchange. The words, "I'll go to the store," were not neutral. The rolling of your eyes at that fact that he is late, and without wine, signals that you are angry.
The concept is incredibly intriguing, especially as a learning specialists who works with students with Autism. A person with damage to one aspect of the brain, let's say the right for example, would not realize that the person is angry with their significant other. The person would only understand that someone was going to the store. As more and more research is coming out about Autism, this makes a lot of sense. Many students on the Autistic Spectrum cannot read nonverbal language, don't understand metaphors, and have a difficult time interpreting social interactions.
Finally, Pink states that the left hemisphere analyzes detail; the right hemisphere synthesizes the big picture. Basically, the right hemisphere takes details and puts them together. Again, when I think about students that I work with on the Autism Spectrum, they generally have difficulty synthesizing what they learn. Many Autistic children can memorize details and facts, but can't synthesize the information. This could indicate that their right hemisphere is not being activated as much as people without Autism. Again, research on Autism is very new, so it will be interesting to learn exactly what is happening in the brains of students with Autism.
Pink ends this chapter by stating that how our cerebral hemisphere operates dictates how we live our lives. He says some people are more comfortable with "logical, sequential, computer-like reasoning." Others are more comfortable with holistic, intuitive and non-linear reasoning." Most likely, the hemisphere that a person is most comfortable with, will dictate what type of job a person gets. He labels the first group of people, L-directed thinkers, and the second group R-directed thinkers. His final paragraph of this chapter states that our society used to prioritize L-directed thinkers. However, now he states R-directed thinkers are what our society needs more of, and is focusing on. The premise of his book is that R-directed thinkers will now determine who "soars or stumbles" in our society.
This chapter is very interesting, and I think it's very appropriate to think about in terms of our educational system. We focus on things such as standardized test which prioritize L-directed thinking. Instead, to help our students to be successful, we also need to encourage our students to be R-directed thinkers. According to Pink's theory, it is essential that we inspire our students to be creative, and develop their R-directed thinking skills.

image credits:

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Copyright and Fair Use

Wow, copyright and fair use is incredibly confusing, especially in the world of education. As teachers, we need to be very careful that we understand copyright and fair use. After reading all four copyright articles, "Copyright and Fair Use Guidelines," "A Visit to Copyright Bay," "Stanford University Libraries: Copyright and Fair Use," and "Keeping it Legal," I still got a few answers wrong when I took the copyright quiz. So, after going back and rereading each article, I think I have a better understanding of copy right and fair use. As educators, it is so important that we understand these laws since we are in such a digital age, and have access to books, music, films and pictures at our fingertips.

First, the "Copyright and Fair Use Guidelines," was fairly straightforward and easy to navigate. There is a clear definition of copyright, which states that, "A copyright is a property right attached to an original work of art or literature." This protects an author, or creator from having people copy his original material. It also mentions that copyright does not protect thoughts or ideas. The article discusses that copyright covers seven broad categories which includes:
literary works, musical works, dramatic works, pantomimed and choreographed works, pictoral, graphics, and sculptural works, motion pictures, and finally, sound recordings.

However, copyrighted materials may be used if its within the public domain, someone has been given permission to use the work, there's a legal exception, or fair use. Fair use is particularly important to educators. It lets teachers and students know when they can use copyrighted material. Educators must consider the purpose of use, the nature of the work, the proportion of the material used, and its effect on marketability. The article points out that because we are now in a digitized age, educators must be very careful with copyright issues. The article encourages teachers to think about ethics when making decisions. The article gives teachers three questions to think about regarding fair use. They include: 1) Will the expression by the author be used? 2) Is the expression protected by copyright laws? 3) Will the use go beyond fair use. These guidelines are very helpful for educators to think about. Finally, one of the most helpful parts of this article is the fair use chart for teachers.

I found the article titled, "A Visit to Copyright Bay," far more difficult to navigate than the above article. I did like the breakdown of exactly what Fair Use is all about. For example, when examining purpose and character, one should ask themselves, is the work intended to be used in an educational setting? When looking at nature of work, the article asks you to think about whether or not the work was created for the use of criticism, comment or educational purposes.

When it comes to fair use and multimedia, things become rather tricky. The web says that many times it comes down to a teacher going through the fair use questions, but if they make the wrong choice, they may end up in court. It does state that as a rule of thumb, students and teachers may include some multimedia in a display, performance, or lecture. There are certain time limits and size requirements that go with using copyrighted material.

This article was helpful, but I found the text format much more helpful than the graphic link.

The Stanford website was helpful, but also had some of the same information as the above two sites. One thing that I liked about this site was that it goes into detail about getting permission to use copyrighted information.

Finally, I enjoyed the last website because it gave specific examples, and talked about whether or not fair use applied. This was very helpful.

Copyright and fair use is a difficult topic. When in doubt, teachers should check these websites, and ask appropriate questions to figure out fair use.