Sunday, March 28, 2010

Capstone II Expectations

What are your expectations for this course?
What knowledge and skills do you hope to learn?
How will this professional development experience shape your future instruction?

I expect to be challenged during the rest of the Capstone experience.  I am looking to it as a means of focus, a way to keep me current in my practice.  I am especially looking forward to networking and collaborating with other educators.  Since I am not in a traditional school with core content areas, I hope to gain practical skills that I can implement in any environment.  I have often found that many conferences and professional development opportunities focus very closely on content, and it is challenging to find ways to implement that in my building.  Because the NETS-T are skills and objectives for learning, rather than a specific skill tied to a specific content or outcome, I think that after finishing the courses, I will be able to bring a more diverse range of instructional strategies to my teachers and students.  After the Introduction course, I have definitely gained a more complete understanding of the NETS-T than I had before, but I also know that I have so much more to learn as we progress.  I am looking forward to all of the changes that my project will undergo and to see that project actually take place in a classroom.

I hope to have a thorough understanding of the NETS-T and how to use those standards to guide planning for instruction with my teachers.  Because I am in a position to work with every teacher and student in my building, I want a broad viewpoint that is not limited by content, but is able to apply all of the standards to any instructional situation with ease.  With that in mind, I want to also have the foresight to know when technology may not be the most appropriate answer to an instructional situation, and I want to gain my teachers' trust so that they know that I am not going to be a technology evangelist, but rather an instructional specialist that they can rely on to find the best possible instructional strategy for any given objective.  Student learning is the goal, and I want to keep that as my true north.  I hope that through this experience I gain a confidence and awareness that I may not always have right now, so that the teachers always see a strong instructional leader whom they are comfortable coming to for assistance.

Your prior experiences using technology in the classroom.
Challenges and successes you have experienced using technology.
Any questions you have about the Capstone Program and the NETS*T.

Ever since I started teaching 9 years ago, I have tried to infuse my classroom with technology.  It was that drive that has lead me to my current position as a CRS.  I feel that I have quite a bit of experience using technology in the classroom.  As a regular classroom teacher, I was willing to give anything a try to engage my students.  Now as a CRS, I try to get my teachers to do the same things by showing them how many great tools are available to them to use.  Usually the technology I have used with students and teachers has been fairly successful.  We have met the typical challenges of technology not working because of division filtering issues or the resource not working the way it should.  We have also encountered issues with students not using the technology appropriately, but those kinds of challenges help to provide learning opportunities for the students and teachers alike.

I am feel more sure about my Standards 1 and 4 plan than I did before Capstone II began.  I was worried about how much technology is included, but I feel like it is less overwhelming now that I have revised it.

Friday, March 26, 2010


This week I spent some time reading and thinking about the practice of reflecting.  As a high school and college student, I often spent time reflecting on my writing, on readings, or on experiences, and at that point, it seemed more like a requirement, something to check off of the list and be finished with. When I was a student teacher, my cooperating teacher, required me to keep a reflective journal.  It started off as more of a listing of the day's events, focusing on procedure, but luckily my cooperating teacher was skilled in the practice of reflection, and she was able to help me move from that procedural type of thinking to a much deeper practice of metacognition that guided me to strengthening my beginning as a teacher.

I enjoyed reading "Fostering Reflection" by Lana Danielson because it clearly outlines the four types of thinking and connects those modes to reflective practice.  This prompted me to think about how I normally reflect and how we as teachers ask students to reflect.  I hadn't really thought about different kinds of thinking and how it could relate to reflection; it may be a bit shallow, but I thought reflection is reflection.  And I have to believe that this is a common assumption.  So let's look at the four types of thinking and how reflection can be used as a component of student learning.

  1. Technologic or Formulaic Thinking-- procedural thinking that is based on pre-existing knowledge that comes from somewhere outside of the thinker
    1. This kind of reflective thinking would be good for students to examine a process that is based on an already-established protocol.
  2. Situational Thinking-- thinking that is rooted in an immediate moment in time and does not look beyond the moment to any root causes
    1. Students can be urged to use situational thinking to guide behavior from moment to moment, but this kind of thinking will not serve to solve any core problems.
  3. Deliberate Thinking-- deeper thinking that is used to go beyond the immediate situation to understand the core issue
    1. Students can use this type of thinking to understand better understand a process or situation.  The students can call on outside expertise.  The students can reflect on a procedure that they are engaging in within a group project or within a lab environment, in order to understand why it is or is not working.
  4. Dialectical Thinking-- thinking that builds on deliberate thinking to generate solutions
    1. This is the perfect kind of thinking to use in a project-based learning situation as the students work through an issue and proposing solutions.
What is so great about reflection is that it can be done in a variety of modes-- peer-to-peer discussions, writing exercises, graphic organizers, etc.  And these can be enhanced through technology tools and resources to promote creative and deep thinking.  For example, blogs mainly focus on writing, but a reflective blog can contain images, video, audio, and writing, which engages more of a student's thinking and provides outlets that will help to generate a higher level of thinking.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Google Earth and Vo-Tech 2.0

I have always been intrigued by Google Earth, but I really didn't understand its capabilities beyond zooming into a region and exploring the landscape.  I spent some time on the Google for Educators site trying to understand how it could be useful in classes other than Geography.  Frankly, I was amazed.  Google Earth allows the user to create files that can be shared and edited on any topic imaginable.  I found files from the world's top ski resorts to "lit trips" that track a novels geographic progression in.  All of the information is contained in the placemarks that can be edited simply using text or more dynamically using HTML code.

That still brought me back to my usual starting point when using technology here: how could I integrate it into the classes we teach?  So far, I have focused on Culinary Arts because they emphasize a global perspective on foods, food production, and food culture, which made Google Earth a perfect platform.  We revamped a "Foods of the World" project that the chef has used in the past, which usually contained Internet research and a 1-2 page research paper.  We decided to use a new tool from called NoteStar to help the student groups manage their research and correctly cite their sources.  This was an excellent tool because the students were responsible for managing their progress, and the teacher and I could check the groups' progress easily.  After they completed their research, the students used Google Earth to enter their research into placemarks.  The placemarks corresponded with the country they were researching, and they learned how to imbed images into the placemarks using simple HTML code.

All in all, the project was a success!  We hit the usual bumps in the road, but the instructor liked the project so much that we have another in progress with the seniors that involves nutrition and traditional foods of other countries.

Check out the wiki for student samples.  These are a little rough, but they are still a work in progress.

In the future, I would like to utilize Google Earth's tour feature.  Using a microphone, you can easily record a narrated tour, which would be a great way for the students to practice their speaking skills.