Monday, January 30, 2012

What is an "online" course?

Could we agree that an online course is one that is delivered online? Recently, Idaho Senators faced a dilemma about how to "legally" define an online course. The original provision defined an online course as one in which the instructor cannot be physically located in the same school in which the student is receiving instruction (Associated Press, 1/30/12). While this definition was voted down 33-0, it does raise a broader issue about distance education. Should it require a physical distance between a teacher and student? If so, how much? An arm's length? Out of their line of sight? Different buildings? Quite the slippery slope. The House agreed with the Senate and declared that it will delete the definition that the Senate voted down. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What if you could Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) to school?

Back in 2003 when Professor Cathy Davidson announced giving free iPods to all entering freshmen at Duke University, critics denounced the idea. How could music players become tools of education? Well, the students (and teachers, even reluctant ones) eventually found innovative uses for personal digital devices. Now, digital devices are a commonplace on virtually all college campuses. In fact, more and more high schools are turning into BYOD (bring your own device) schools by allowing students and staff to bring in their own personal digital devices, such as phones, iPads, iPods, tablets, and laptop computers. Once again, students and teachers are finding innovative uses for these devices in high schools (and even middle schools). If you were allowed to bring in your personal digital device to high school, what would you bring and how would you use it? Please take the poll to the right and post a comment below. In your comment please note if you are a student, teacher, administrator, or any other applicable description.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Students should be able to use cell phones in school

Many schools across the country have lifted the ban on high school students' use of cell phones in school by entering into acceptable use agreements and educating the students about the proper etiquette of using cell phones during school. This way, when the students (especially, seniors) go off to college, they will be prepared to work with the mobile learning (m-learning) environment that is proliferating on almost all college campuses. M-learning is an inevitable reality and we cannot ignore it for long. Many opponents of mobile learning simply don't know the benefits of m-learning, or are afraid of the change because "some" might abuse the privilege. I think it is about time that faculty and administrators engage in teaching students how to employ m-learning and communicating in school by following acceptable use agreements. Many colleges now require their students to even sign these agreements. As schools get ready to integrate technology in education, it is important that they change their policy regarding no cell phones in school. We all have and use them; then why pretend that it does not (or should not) happen? We prepare our high school students for English and Math when they go off to college or work, then why not prepare them for mobile learning and communication, which will be part of their future academic and/ or professional lives anyway? Click for more information: The Innovative Educator: 10 Talking Points to Lift the Ban on Cell Phones or copy and paste the following url into your browser:

Monday, December 12, 2011

Using Data to Improve Instruction

Teachers are being pushed to analyze data to improve instruction. Some call it a softer way of saying "teaching to the test." Whatever you call it, the fact is that most teachers are expected to show that they are using data to improve instruction. Most professional development on this topic is geared towards using data to improve standardized-test instruction. However, some teachers do really want to use data to improve classroom instruction. Where does a teacher like that begin? Check out HP Teacher Exchange's brief video on using data to improve classroom instruction:

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Using SMS to connect with your school community

For our last parent teacher conferences at Haverhill High School, I offered parents to sign up online using my Google Calendar. Many parents took advantage of this offer. During the conferences, I offered parents the option to sign up for text message alerts from me for their child’s major test scores. Several parents signed up for that as well. Many of us subscribe to various text message services, such as weather updates and sports scores. We use texting to stay connected with our social circles; then why not use it to stay in touch with the stakeholders of our students' education? Why not integrate text messaging for communicating with the community in which we teach? There are several options on the web that could handle mass communication via SMS messaging. For example, look at Twitter, Mobilizeus, School Messenger, and Broadtexter. Twitter and Broadtexter are free. With these free services, you can:
  • Allow those in your community to subscribe to your alerts
  • Create a signup widget for your webpage or blog
  • Schedule text alerts in advance
  • Send alerts from a computer or mobile device

Note: Standard text messaging rates apply.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Chasing the 21st Century

Does school look and feel exactly how it did 10, 15, 20, or 30 years ago? Consider these practices:
(1) Desks organized in rows in front of the blackboard or overhead projector (not exactly multimedia of today!). (2) Teacher at the blackboard lecturing to the class or students working on handouts. Handouts... yup, they are photocopies of pages from resource books that came as part of the textbook purchase plan (maybe back in 1983, yikes!). Sometimes, the handouts are photocopies or printouts of material from various educational websites; printed minutes before the class begins. (3) Teachers showing YouTube videos or websites on a projector--- though using multimedia teachnology, may not be pedagogy based multimedia education.Will we continue like this for another 10, 15, 20, or 30 years? For the entire 21st century? Or will the schools look and feel different? Some schools will lead in the 21st century and others will chase it. Check out this link to read about 21 things that will be obsolete by 2020. Feel free to post your comments.