Monday, September 29, 2014

We All Love Feedback

I was recently reading The Online Survival Guide by Boettcher and Conrad (pg. 173) about the rules of feedback for online learning. There seems to be some general rules, i.e. give feedback early and often, be prompt when you set a time frame for feedback and make sure the feedback is personal and formative. Leaving the academic aspects about feedback aside I began to realize that the emotional part of feedback reminds me a lot of a discipline program called Love and Logic. . Almost every principal I’ve worked for has required training or reading created by the Love and Logic program for classroom management and discipline. Love and Logic has many great techniques. One technique that has worked well for me in the classroom (and at home) is that of acknowledging the child. Every child wants to be seen. Some will behave in negative ways for attention and some will act like angels in the hopes to get noticed. But once a child is acknowledged in some way, not even necessarily in a positive or negative way, that child becomes more engaged, helpful, and more comfortable in the environment. I don’t need to praise or admonish but simply state that I recognize a student’s presence. Sometimes I would simply say to a student, “I see you got new shoes” or “I saw that you put the pencils away” and suddenly I saw that child have much more positive energy.

Applying this acknowledgment technique to online learning seems very similar to classroom management. Even I, as a graduate student, want to be seen and acknowledged with the work I am doing online. There is something exciting and satisfying about knowing my thoughts have been read and processed. Both peer and instructor feedback creates a desire to do a better job. When designing online courses for my elementary students I will remember just how important this acknowledgement will be to keep children motivated and on task. Children could easily feel disconnected to others and their work while working online. Peer and instructor feedback is crucial for successful learning. This feedback could occur in discussion groups, online evaluations, badges, or with traditional grades. Hopefully recognition in the online world will do it’s magic.  

Monday, September 15, 2014


Recently I have been developing my PLN, Personal Learning Network. According to Sue Waters, "Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) are all about using web tools... to create connects with others which extend our learning, increases our reflection while enabling us to learn together as part of a global community.”  And so I created an account on LinkedIn. This being a professional networking site I never thought I would subscribe. As an elementary school teacher it isn’t a resource that is used often at my level. I think I considered it a bit mysterious, as something someone in the corporate world, which I know only a little about, would use. I was hoping to avoid it all together. But then as I thought of networks to include in my PLN and I thought I would give it a try. My first mistake was that I accidently invited every single contact in my Gmail account to be connected with me on the site. I have received phone calls, emails and texts from people telling me they got my invitation to LinkedIn. I have also been stopped by acquaintances in real life who have received something from me for LinkedIn. I am a bit embarrassed. Some of these acquaintances I feel it’s inappropriate to have connected with them on LinkedIn, such as the director of my son’s school. Others are people I haven’t talked to in a very long time and feel bad for neglecting friendships or old colleagues I had forgotten to keep in touch.

Second, I am not sure that the information I have on my Linked in page is what is expected or detailed enough. I feel a bit embarrassed about anyone viewing it, especially someone I might not know very well. As with all the online networks and sites I have participated I feel a bit vulnerable about having my information, thoughts and opinions out there in the cyber world for analysis.

I also included Facebook in my PLN. Before this Facebook has always been a very personal site for me, which I communicated with friends and family in other parts of the country and world. It felt a bit uncomfortable to cross over this network to include information for my educational and professional world. It reminded me of an anecdote in Interface Design for Learning (Peters pg. 123) when a focus group asked undergraduate students if their university should use Facebook for communication. They were also uncomfortable. I am sure my Facebook page is much more banal than the undergraduate student's but I still felt protective of it and its contents. As information continues to become more and more accessible I wonder how much more will our worlds collide? Will anything on the web be private? Should be expect what we put on the internet to be public domain?   

Monday, September 8, 2014

Is it magic?

Absurdly, there are certain things I think are magic no matter how many times someone explains them to me. The stock market, (seriously- where does all that money go?), the inner working of the human body, (what do you mean the heart just beats on its own?), and technology. Yes, I understand that someone has written code and it causes things to happen but sometimes it really feels like magic. Somehow a touch screen responds to touch, the curser from my mouse can travel across multiple monitors and clicking icons on a website takes you to places you might never dream of on your own. I know that if I really researched these and a million other technological feats I would find answers but something fundamentally, way down to the basics feels like magic. I wonder if my elementary school students feel this way or just take it for granted about the way things work.
My son could figure out how to use a touch screen when he was 2 years old. Don’t ask me why I gave my son a touch screen at 2 years old unless you have taken a toddler out to eat at a restaurant recently. He could recognize the cause and effect of the interface of my iPhone without stopping to consider the why or how. Is it important that children, somewhere along the line, understand why things work the way they do in technology? And I don’t necessarily mean coding, though there would be value in that knowledge, but the why and how of the internet and the gadgets they use? Likewise should children know the history of technology, what computers used to look like, how far we have come in the digital age? Is this important now that technology has been so immersed in our everyday lives or just par for the course?

I own a Kindle, and the Kindle App on my iPad, iPhone and laptop. With the Whispersync feature from Amazon I can pick up any device and start reading from the exact place I left off of on another device. Now that has to be some kind of magic!