Virtual School Meanderings

July 21, 2015

EDTECH537 – Guest Blogger Entry: Why Teachers NEED Twitter

This is a guest blog post by Angela Rutschke, BEd, MET. Angela is a sixth grade teacher at Caroline School in Caroline, Alberta (Canada) – and a former EDTECH537 student. She blogs from Rutschke’s Renderings and tweets from @ARutschke.

As I mentioned in the EDTECH537 – Week 4 entry for my EDTECH537 – Blogging In The Classroom course, I wanted to post a sample of a guest blog entry. As is the practice on this blog, this will be the only entry that is posted today.

twitterI intentionally avoided Twitter for a long time. What could POSSIBLY be appealing about tiny snippets of people’s lives and pictures of their food? When I finally signed up, I wasn’t too impressed. I just didn’t have much to share with the world, particularly in 140 character fashion! So I lurked, I read some interesting things, but remained unconvinced that Twitter was for me.

In June, 2013 I HAD to tweet if I wanted an “A” in EDTECH 597, Blogging in the Classroom. Now the stakes were personal, which made me even more hesitant! I would have a guaranteed audience of 20 people, but I still didn’t have anything to say! I wasn’t at all pleased, but decided I would REALLY try to “do” Twitter, after all my GRADE was at stake, so I became a full-fledged twit!

In the two short years since, Twitter has completely changed my teaching! No one is more surprised that I am, but I am not exaggerating! I have tapped into the enormous spring of inspiration, resources, and expertise that is available whenever I need it.

In my rural community of 500 people, where I am the sole grade 6 teacher, I can feel rather isolated at times, but Twitter shrinks the world, and has opened doors for my students I didn’t even know about before!

Here’s my Top Five ways Twitter has impacted my teaching:

  1. Professional Learning Network– I have grown an AMAZING Professional Learning Network! Twitter has connected me to teachers and technology experts that have changed my practice, inspired my creativity and helped me become more courageous. I have learned from, and been inspired by so many educators that I would not have had had access to before. The connections I’ve forged through Twitter are powerful, encouraging and supportive. The collective knowledge of my PLN is unsurpassed and connected educators tend to be generous with their resources as well!
  2. Finger on the Pulse of Education– I learn about current technology, useful teaching strategies, global education movements, and get a chance to hear from the best educators in the world, one tweet at a time. There is NOTHING more powerful than having the best in our profession share their genius and resources, and that is exactly what Twitter offers.
  3. Global Connection– Through Twitter chats, I have tapped into the richest source of PD I have ever found, and discovered a community that supports and drives innovative teaching practices. My class and I have been able connect with blogging partners from around the world, experience Google Hangouts with authors and other classes, and share our work with an authentic, world audience through Twitter. A question posted on Twitter is often answered within the hour!
  4. Leadership Opportunities– I host #6thchat, which is a weekly chat for sixth grade teachers. My experience with #geniushour and #tlap (Teach Like a Pirate) have led to sessions at EdCamps and opened the door for me to at the Alberta Technology Leaders in Education Conference in 2014 (ATLE). Twitter is the root of them all!
  5. Class Room Design- Twitter was my sounding board for my classroom make-over as well. I asked for feedback on how to change my classroom into the optimum learning space for my 28 students and educators all over the world responded! The result was empowering for my students and the closest I have ever been able to come to my ideal classroom. That’s a BIG change!
before after
BEFORE AFTER

Twitter has become my favorite place to glean ideas, share successes and become the best educator I can. I tell anyone that will listen what an extraordinary tool it has been for me. I am the best teacher I have ever been, in my 19th year of teaching, and can attribute much of my growth and improvement to using Twitter. My experience highlights why teachers NEED Twitter. I just wish I would have caught on sooner!

This is a guest blog post by Angela Rutschke, BEd, MET. Angela is a sixth grade teacher at Caroline School in Caroline, Alberta (Canada) – and a former EDTECH537 student. She blogs from Rutschke’s Renderings and tweets from @ARutschke.

April 7, 2015

Guest Blog Entry: Integration of Online Learning in Schools – A New Fully Online Graduate Program

This is a guest post by Jered Borup, an Assistant Professor of Learning Technologies in Schools at George Mason University. As is the tradition at Virtual School Meanderings, this will be the only entry today.

Logo

NOW ENROLLING FOR THE FALL 2015 SEMESTER

As a student you will learn how to blend online and face-to-face instruction, teach online, design effective online learning activities, foster online learning communities and much more.

Choose a degree or certificate from this teacher-friendly program:

TUITION DISCOUNTS

Now offering new tuition discounts that reduce out-of-state tuition by approximately 45% and in-state tuition by 15%.

LEARN MORE AT A WEBINAR

Attend one of the following live information sessions by logging in as a guest at https://webcon.gmu.edu/iols

  • Wednesday, April 8 at 6:30pm EST
  • Saturday, May 9 at 11:00am EST

Additional details about the program can be found at http://mason.gmu.edu/~pnorton/IOLS.html

Email Dr. Jered Borup at jborup@gmu.edu for additional information or to receive reminders for upcoming information sessions.

Jered Borup, Ph.D.
Phone: (703)993-3137
E-Mail: jborup@gmu.edu
cehd.gmu.edu/online/iols

This is a guest post by Jered Borup, an Assistant Professor of Learning Technologies in Schools at George Mason University.

March 17, 2015

Guest Blog Entry: Integration of Online Learning in Schools – A New Fully Online Graduate Program

This is a guest post by Jered Borup, an Assistant Professor of Learning Technologies in Schools at George Mason University. As is the tradition at Virtual School Meanderings, this will be the only entry today.

Logo

NOW ENROLLING FOR THE FALL 2015 SEMESTER

As a student you will learn how to blend online and face-to-face instruction, teach online, design effective online learning activities, foster online learning communities and much more.

Choose a degree or certificate from this teacher-friendly program:

TUITION DISCOUNTS

Now offering new tuition discounts that reduce out-of-state tuition by approximately 45% and in-state tuition by 15%.

LEARN MORE AT A WEBINAR

Attend one of the following live information sessions by logging in as a guest at https://webcon.gmu.edu/iols

  • Tuesday, March 17 at 6:30pm EST
  • Wednesday, April 8 at 6:30pm EST
  • Saturday, May 9 at 11:00am EST

Additional details about the program can be found at http://mason.gmu.edu/~pnorton/IOLS.html

Email Dr. Jered Borup at jborup@gmu.edu for additional information or to receive reminders for upcoming information sessions.

Jered Borup, Ph.D.
Phone: (703)993-3137
E-Mail: jborup@gmu.edu
http://cehd.gmu.edu/online/iols

This is a guest post by Jered Borup, an Assistant Professor of Learning Technologies in Schools at George Mason University.

August 25, 2014

Guest Blogger: Teach Young People About The Gaps In Access To Education With This Free Online Game!

This is a guest post by Sarah Hutchison, an educational consultant with SPARK Global Learning, who is working on behalf of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

mind-the-gapAs the deadline for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals looms (September 2015), the world is looking closely at whether we will reach the aim of providing universal access to primary education. Although significant gains have been made since the goal was set, progress in recent years has slowed. At the time of the World Education Forum in 2000, there were 102 million children out of school. That number had dropped to 58 million by 2012. Yet data show that the world is still unlikely to achieve universal access by 2015. Watch this for more: Video: Data Tell Us

As the new school year approaches turn your focus to a resource that examines these gaps and inequities in access to education around the world. Explore the online game Mind the Gap: Gender and Education.

mindthegapStatistics come alive with a click of a button allowing users to easily compare and contrast the education of children, adolescents, students and adults living in different countries around the world. Access to education for girls versus boys is explored along with some of the reasons why gaps still exist. Online learning is bolstered by engaging facilitated activities found in the accompanying Facilitator Guide.

This guide provides an introduction to the topic of gender and education, gives a framework for exploring the online data tool, and suggests further ways to extend learning. The activities are most suitable for young people in grades 5 through 10 participating in classroom settings, clubs and youth groups, and homeschools that are exploring global citizenships and education themes.

Neat idea! Explore this topic with young people on International Literacy Day, September 8.

Note: The tool is available in English, French and Spanish. The guide is available in English and French.

This is a guest post by Sarah Hutchison, an educational consultant with SPARK Global Learning, who is working on behalf of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

August 7, 2014

Guest Blogger: 5 Reasons Why K-12 Online Learning is Growing Fast

This is a guest post by Sarah Brooks from Freepeoplesearch.org, a people finder site. She is a Houston based freelance writer and blogger. Questions and comments can be sent to brooks.sarah23@gmail.com.

Online learning, also known as e-learning, has dramatically changed the face of education in recent years. Not only has there been an explosion in higher education online, but K-12 has also seen brisk growth in online learning. All over the United States and Canada, numerous school districts, educators, and parents are reevaluating educational systems and trying to find better ways to educate and socialize their children. They are discovering that online learning offers versatility and economy as well as a more enriching educational experience. Some of the advantages online learning brings to K-12 education include:

  1. Versatility and variety. Online learning can occur in or out of the classroom and can either be in real time, with all participants tuned in at the same time (synchronous); or self-paced, as with an interactive learning tutorial or information database posted online and accessible at participants’ convenience (asynchronous). Online learning is well suited to distance learning but can also be a supplement to classroom or face-to-face education; the combination of the two is often referred to as “blended learning.” It’s not just a matter of kids turning on their computers and logging on to the Internet: to the contrary, online learning is a multimedia experience. Online learning utilizes numerous types of media that deliver a variety of content – text, graphics, audio, streaming video, and the like. And online learning is not just for educational institutions; many parents who opt for home schooling also participate in some form of e-learning program.
  2. Efficiency and economy. Numerous case studies have shown that in the corporate environment, learning can be much more efficient as well as more cost effective to deliver than classroom-based learning or training. E-learning has delivered benefits such as reductions in training costs, and improved consistency and scalability. Does the same hold true in the K-12 learning environment? It seems so: a properly administered online learning program can deliver similar benefits to K-12, such as increased capacity to instruct more students while maintaining a learning outcome equivalent to comparable forms of in-person instruction; enhanced quality and consistency of learning experiences and outcomes; and better cost-effectiveness for assembling and distributing instructional content.
  3. Individual attention from teachers and instructors. It has been repeatedly demonstrated that children who are in smaller classes – particularly from grades K-3 – perform better in math and reading than students in larger classes. This is because they have teachers who are able to devote more time to each individual student. Individual attention from teachers often translates into academic success in the higher grades as well. As physical classrooms grow in size in traditional schools, students of all ages suffer from lack of individual attention. Effectively delivered online schooling allows students to receive the attention and focus from their teachers that they need in order to succeed. Online learning can offer the best of both worlds: scalability and personalized assignments and lesson plans, based on their teacher’s evaluation of the student’s skills.
  4. Unprecedented opportunities for all students to participate. Despite the socialization opportunities, discipline advantages, and possibly the subject retention benefits of the traditional classroom setting, it is not an optimal environment for every student. Many students who for various reasons are reluctant to participate in traditional classroom discussions or activities seem to shine in online “classrooms.” Online schools and classes allow students to participate in discussions with their teachers and fellow students via forums such as classroom discussion boards, which provide an open environment for all students to express their ideas. Shy kids who are terrified by the thought of having to stand up and speak in front of their teachers and fellow students have been known to blossom in an online setting, learning to express themselves clearly and assertively. Students with limited interpersonal communication skills have a chance to hone those skills in a less judgmental environment than a traditional classroom.
  5. New opportunities for self-paced learning. Each individual student learns and absorbs information at his or her own pace. Traditional schooling cannot cater to personal learning speed; teachers are obliged to maintain a specific pace in order to meet their districts’ curriculum standards. Slower learners must struggle to keep up, faster learners may be hopelessly bored, and both the slower and faster learners may at some point disengage. On the other hand, online education allows students to learn and absorb at their own pace. They don’t have to waste time lingering on material they already know, and they can spend more time on challenging material, obtaining extra help and instructor attention as they need it.

Barriers still exist to a broader implementation of online learning; among these are the lack of acceptance among faculty in traditional education institutions (as opposed to for-profit online institutions). In addition, there are issues related to student discipline and retention rates in online learning environments as opposed to traditional classroom settings. Some of these issues are discussed at length in this January 2013 report, co-sponsored by the Babson Survey Research Group. While online learning will probably never completely replace “in person” classroom instruction, it has dramatically expanded the possibilities for education at all levels. At its best it has the capacity to bring out even the most reluctant student’s potential in ways that traditional education never could manage to do, offering a more personalized connection with instructors and helping each student find his or her own path.

For a comprehensive look at some disadvantages as well as advantages of online learning, see the 2014 National Education Policy Center report on Virtual Schools in the U.S..

This is a guest post by Sarah Brooks from Freepeoplesearch.org, a people finder site. She is a Houston based freelance writer and blogger. Questions and comments can be sent to brooks.sarah23@gmail.com.

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