Archive | January, 2011

Mobile Education

25 Jan

One of my classes has required us to do a very open ended assignment about integrating technology in the classroom.  It is a math education class so we are trying to integrate the technology into math but not specifically.  The group that I am in is looking into using cell phones in our classrooms.

The big question is: Distraction or Tool?  Cell phones are becoming more and more a part of daily life and is something we have to think about.  While it is important to think about the negative aspects of them the question really should be how we use it.  Cell phones could be a dangerous tool if they aren’t used properly but also an incredible asset if incorporated properly.

I found a website about Thinking Mobile Phones For Learning and there seems to be a lot of good things on there.  I’m pretty overwhelmed with the amount of resources there are and really don’t know where to start.

I really want to not only research how the cell phones can be used but also how teachers right now are using them.  I want to know about their reactions to these things and ask questions.  I want to know if it works, what works good, what works bad and go from there.

This is just a starting point for me, I’m just going to have to dig in and start learning.  If anyone has any feedback, resources, stories… anything, it would be greatly appreciated!

All of the information we are collecting is going onto our wiki 2011emth351.

Reflecting Upon Reflection

25 Jan

This semester is requiring the most reflection I have ever done in my entire life.  It’s a good thing I really like thinking about these things, but at the same time it is very difficult and thought consuming.  In EPS 350 we have been given different articles to read and have been given numerous ideas to think about.

The first idea is that of a teacher identity and of professionalism.  The idea that we have a teacher identity and that it is important to let it encompass our entire being is important in the education process.  In the book Teaching Selves by Jane Danielewicz she talks about how she is still becoming a teacher.  There is this idea of a teacher and it is what we are striving to become but it is a place that we will never actually arrive.  The process of “becoming” is ongoing.  The “teacher” is always going to be changing as society and the world is always changing, so becoming a teacher is something that needs to be happening constantly.  There are external things that help to shape you into the person that you are and you can’t control or predict those things.  You can’t expect anything to remain constant without changing, so in order to meet these changing needs you also have to change too.  We are also constantly learning and experiencing things, and the more knowledge we get from these things will change us too.  The important thing is that we identify the teacher in ourselves and we do this by reflection.

Reflection itself is where the most growth can come from learning.  When we experience things, whether they are right or wrong, we have the ability to learn from the experience.  The only way we can learn from this experience is if we do actually reflect and think about what is right and what is wrong and where we can keep things the same or fix them.  Self-reflection might be the most difficult thing to do in teaching as it can be very difficult to accept when you have made a mistake.  I have a hard time thinking about mistakes, not because I know I did wrong but because I am overwhelmed at the consequences.  I find that especially right now, when I am not in a classroom teaching, I am extremely worried about screwing up.  I’m worried that I am going to screw up the life of a person.  Teaching is such a great responsibility and it has the opportunity to produce great things and very negative things.  The thing that I am going to find difficult is letting myself screw up.  Obviously I am going to screw up, no one can do anything perfect, I just need to remember that I, as well as my students, will be able to learn from everything.  Right now I am very overwhelmed.  There is so much to remember when teaching that I am scared I can’t possibly remember it all.  I want to be a “good enough” teacher, and I am hoping that it is a good thing that I am thinking about these things and constantly changing my mind about who the best teacher I can be is.  This self-reflection could be very difficult in a sense that it will be difficult to think about these things, but also easy because it’s going to be the way to cope with these stresses in the classroom.  Self-Reflection is the time when you can make something good come out of something bad, and help not to dwell on things.  It will help me grow not only in my practice but in myself in all aspects of life.

Reflection is required in all of our education classes and I find that many of my peers don’t want to do it.  Taking the time to slow down and type out my thoughts on these things has made me think more critically.  I find reflection to be the most important aspect of my education because its challenging me to think about why I am learning what I am learning and how it is going to help me.

How Did I Get Here?

19 Jan

My EMTH 350 class has required me to make a timeline of the events that have taken place to get me to where I am today and why I want to be a teacher.  It seems to be a common theme among numerous education classes so I thought a lot about this.  I decided to use dipity and make my timeline online.

 

Assessment in Mathematics

13 Jan

A group of educators are brought into a room and asked to grade the exact same math test taken by the exact same student.  The mark achieved on this test?  Well the mark varied by 30%.  Wait a second… I thought math was black and white, right and wrong, good and evil… Why such the difference?

Over the course of my education I have thought a lot about assessment and especially how I am going to approach it when I teach.  I understand that there is a numerical grade given to students and I just do not think that it necessarily reflects any knowledge or understanding of the student.  Assessing doesn’t have to be done through marking to get a grade, because what does a grade really mean anyways?  Why is it that students need to be tested to prove their knowledge?  Do we not notice students understanding in numerous situations and do we not assess those things?  Regardless of these numerous things that we assess there has to be a numerical grade assigned to a student.  Marks are only reflective of a person’s opinion, so do they really matter?

Today in our EMTH 350 class we were asked to assess tests.  This is the first time I had been asked to do this, but not the first time that I have marked something.  I saw in many different instances that I knew the student fully understood the assignment and the problem yet made mistakes along the way.  What is more important; getting the right answer or understanding the process?  Process over product is a concept that I often think about and have always felt true.  When it comes down to it though, society asks a grade of us for our students.  In such a competitive society, with scholarships and university and so on, how else are we to gauge a students performance?

What really is assessment?  My understanding of it is that when you observe a student you can understand what they understand and what they are doing wrong.  Most importantly you are understanding how to fix those problems.  Assessing is something that happens all the time, but how can we measure it?  Do we need to?

Math Attitude

13 Jan

What are people’s attitudes towards mathematics?  Why do some people hate mathematics?  Many things can affect how people view mathematics.  The content itself, although does play a role in the anxiety that mathematics, but not necessarily one of the greatest factors.  The stereotype of what is believed to be a math teacher and the social outlook on math and the teachers makes a great influence.  If children are raised thinking they hate math, whether it be from their teachers or their parents, that is going to be passed on.  The social aspect on attitude towards math plays a great deal especially in middle years.  This is the time when kids are changing the most and going through a lot, and worrying and being good at something like math might not be a priority or not considered “cool”.  Assessment also plays a great role in how people think about math.  At a young age things like tests are introduced with math and many students find it difficult being put on the spot with math, especially if they aren’t comfortable with it.

As a teacher, dealing with students attitudes towards math will be a concern.  What ways can I, as a teacher, make students have a more positive outlook on math and be more comfortable with it.  Maybe the ways in which one assesses the students can make a difference.  Giving real world examples and making math more applicable to students could make it pertain more to the students.  Its hard to say what might be the best way to help this image, but its clear that there is a problem so things obviously need to change.

Fitting the Standards

10 Jan

Today was my first class of EADM 310 and we watched the TED talk Bill Gates on Mosquitos, Malaria and Education.  At some point in the semester we are going to have to reflect on everything we are learning so I might as well do it now.  This TED talk posed a large amount of questions for me, and also frustrated me quite a bit.

At first Gates talks about mosquito’s and malaria and I found a lot of what he said to be very interesting.  It is important to use what we have, all of the technologies and advancements, to better the world, but sometimes it seems like it is an after thought.  “Now that we have all this money we can use it to help others”, rather than doing it along the way.  The point he made that stood out the most is that if you try half-heartedly to force out a problem over the time that it takes to rid that same problem it will evolve.  This told me a couple of things: 1) Things are going to be constantly changing and 2) The society we are in values doing things as fast as possible.  This really led the way into how I thought about his views on education, and also made me think about how we help people.  Would it be more beneficial to try and fix the problem all at once and get rid of it for good or help as many people along the  way as you can?

He started off with asking the question, “How do you make a good teacher?” and his answer was, “You don’t.”  At first I thought that this was a great statement, saying that you can only teach someone how to do something so much and becoming a great teacher was up to that individual person.  This wasn’t necessarily what Gates was getting at.  Gates was trying to say that it’s needed to make sure that teachers are getting classified by their competence and not because of their seniority etc.  The main content of what needed to be achieved through education was that all people should get equal opportunity and everyone deserves to have good teachers.  This seems almost contradictory to what he finds to be the intent of what education is for, which was mainly to compete at a global scale.

Why do we use education to be “competitive”?  If we are trying to make sure that everyone has equal opportunity does that not mean that we are trying to lessen the competitiveness of education?  Gates talked about how we can compete at a global scale.  What does this really mean?  What does “competing at a global scale mean?  Does this mean that we are at par intellectually with other countries?  Does that really matter at all?  What I seemed to find from what he was talking about is that we need to increase our education so that we can be the top educated people.  Is it fair to use education as a means to become culturally superior?  Is that really the motive behind education?  If we are the most educated people what are the repercussions of that?  It is clear from Gates’ perspective that it means we can drive our country economically.  Is driving economics the sole purpose of education?

How can we measure who is the most educated group of peoples?  The easiest way, of course, is standardize testing.  Ha.  That frustrates me beyond belief.  First of all how can you possibly have a standardized test that would apply to every group of people in the world?  The cultural differences between people make it easy to see that you couldn’t because not everyone learns things the same ways, and that does NOT mean that a person is more or less educated.  Does testing really give any evidence as to how much knowledge a student possesses?  Putting emphasis on testing just gives reason to think that the only purpose of schooling has to do with the content learned not the actually process of learning.  Can testing really give evidence as to who is a good teacher?  Sure it can, if the only thing you find important is memorizing the content that is applicable to the testing.  I don’t understand how standardized testing can make or break if you have had a good education or not.

Standardizing the testing isn’t the only standard Gates talks about; the teacher standard plays a great role in his discussion.  I understand that teachers are held to a higher standard than others, and I agree with that.  I agree that in a sense we have standards for what a teacher is, we go to the university to learn how to be teachers after all.  What I don’t agree with is that there should be a set in stone standard of how all teachers are.  If we focus too much on what the standard of being a teacher is, how does that leave room for development?  Gates said that after three years a teacher doesn’t get any better, but of course this is a stat derived from test scores.  Is that true?  At the beginning of his talk he makes the point that things evolve and things change, is this aside from education?  How could we possibly make a standard for who a teacher should be and what they should do when things are constantly evolving and changing?  What works for one teacher might not work for another teacher.  Teachers constantly adapt to their surroundings.  If we accept that are students are not all the same should we then also accept that our teachers are not all the same?

You can never perfect something, there is always room for improvement.

Defining an Indian

7 Jan

The last couple of days have been full of information.  Our pre-internship semester begins with the (E)Merging Professionalism Conference and has got me thinking.  With all of the information I have given though, the thing that has stuck in my head the most is mainly about my heritage.  I was fortunate to hear talks about Anti-Oppressive Education, Treaty Education from the Office of Treaty commissioner which included a talk from an Elder from my own band, a talk about learning Treaties for Social Justice, and a talk from the keynote speaker Perry Bellegarde.  Finishing just an hour before this there are some thoughts that are stuck in my mind.

Rather than describe all of the wonderful things that I learned in the last two days, I want to reflect on what it has led me to think about.  One of the things that I heard from the Elder talk was that Canada is the only place that has an Act to define a person.  Rather than have someone define who I am, I want to define myself.  Obviously I would never be able to define myself as an entire person, so I am going to focus specifically on myself as a First Nations Person.

Describing this aspect of my life is always something I have difficulty with, because I feel like I don’t know enough and I’m ashamed of that.  My First Nations background isn’t something that is apparent in my every day life, but rather something that is part of my underlying structure; it makes me who I am.

In order to define myself I really have to define my family.  Two of the people who have most shaped me in my life are my mother and my grandfather.   I have learned in my family that we often do not talk about many things concerning our First Nations background, and therefore I find that I don’t also.  I have also learned that when I am given information I should be very grateful of it, and listen and retain as much information as possible.

My grandfather went to a residential school, and up until the last couple of years that was the only thing I knew about it.  Through my mother I have learned that the choice to go to the residential school, along with the numerous other brothers and sisters in my grandpa’s family, was made by my great-grandmother and she considered it to be a good thing.  Life on the reserve was not good and it was better for her children to send them to a residential school.  My family chose to go along with assimilation, knowing full well of the repercussions, and with that great sacrifice came many expectations.  My family gave up our own culture to survive, and this survival is focused mainly on education.

Education is an extremely important thing in my family.  Getting a job, and working hard for everything you get, is how I was raised.  Because of this fact a majority of my family, on my grandpa’s side, have gone to some form of post secondary.  Another thing that is important is that nothing is taken for granted.  The fact that we are given this education needs to be used to our best ability.

I understand that my grandfather has gone through a lot through his life, and has been constantly oppressed.  Because of this I know that he works hard in a sense that he doesn’t want to give anybody a reason to mold him into any stereotypes.  My grandpa is well into his seventies and he just retired at Christmas… for the second  time in his life.  He continues to work hard because it is what he knows.  I know that he wants to continue working hard because he doesn’t want his children and grandchildren to go through anything he has.

This Christmas I was fortunate enough to get stories from my grandpa.  I asked if he would teach me how to make Indian Donuts and Bullets, traditional food that our family makes around new years.  New Years Eve i spent a majority of my day making fried dough and meatballs with my grandpa and it was one of my favourite memories of 2010.  He told me stories of previous times making the food, passed the recipes down to me, and told me lots of stories of my family.  He said I would make a good little Indian woman and that I was the family Indian Donut maker.  I wouldn’t trade that day for anything.

Although these things don’t seem to really define much about me, they do hold great importance to me.  The most important thing is that I understand that I don’t know very much about my heritage.  I’m Cree and I only know one word, although my grandpa did lose the language when he went to the residential school.  I want to learn more about myself and my family, and I want to do things to make my entire family proud.  Because education was so important to my family it has become the most important thing in my life.  My definition is quite short, but i will forever be building on it.