When I started ECI831 I was intrigued by the possibilities the new software offered and began exploring in search of a place to start. The possibilities of how these sites were going to be useful in my professional life seemed vague at first but I knew the value of digital resources. I had amassed a large library of videos and subsequent segments for lesson supplementation and it was one of the few digital resources that went everywhere I went. That is besides Google, which seemed to bring me back to the same resources I had before. This was not negative as the resources were useful but neither was it progressing my teaching.
One of the best resources I have learned about during my time sharing professional resources is Delicious. With Delicious I have been able to better organize and utilize digital resources. When I have those oh I need something better than this moments I go right to delicious. There seems to be an implicit stream of conscious within the tag organization style of association. I am able to guide and further student understanding by better knowing what information I have to offer. In past years I have lost a lot of the links stored in my school computer’s browser because I forgot to send them to my email. This thought now frustrates me because with each move the same searches were performed at each new computer. If only I had known about sites like delicious, which offer online resource storage my work could have come with me. The aspect of portability offers a new mode of working as well. I can start a project and keep my progress stored online and access it from wherever I need. Along with organizing and archiving my work delicious also offers for members to be a part of networks, which allow you to brose other people’s resources through Tag searches. I soon discovered there was a lot more to online storage and it was sharing. To have access to colleague’s information and allow access to mine was such help. It was a way to see how others were approaching teaching and articles that allowed growth with purpose. No longer was I forced to sit through a professional development day about some aspect of teaching that has little to no relevance to my growth needs as a teacher or relates to my content area. The information I found was purposeful and directly related to how I wanted to style my teaching. Also the confirmation of pedagogy in some areas and the continued learning in areas of struggle only furthered my want to participate in these networks.
Educators at all levels can take advantage of a diverse set of resource repositories for a wide range of disciplines. However, to maximize the utility of these resource collections, it is crucial to incorporate into their design specific strategies to support their sustainability by ensuring both short-term and long-term value. Furthermore, by purposefully integrating learning materials with teaching expertise, the value of open educational resources for teachers can be greatly enhanced (Carey, 2009).
Twitter was one network I had not taken much time to explore due to media coverage framing it as a means to follow celebrities and post the most trivial nonsense in hopes of self-promoting pseudo-celebrity. Unless I had stepped out of my comfort zone I would never have discovered the amazing power and connectivity Twitter offers for professional growth. I have acquired more professionally relevant resources through tweets in the past few months than I ever imagined. Unfortunately twitter is not accessible at school, what a shame,
One of the hardest parts of my final project was determining which technologies would best suit my needs and style. I started by looking at several different content management systems. Each CMS offered different user interfaces as well as set up options. Privacy was a major concern, as I wanted my middle school students to be involved in the project. I was worried how I would get permission from the school system to allow access to a social network. This actually was a lot easier than I had thought. One Friday afternoon I secured the help of my schools technology consultant and together we conference called tech services. We outlined how the site was going to be used and discussed the privacy issues, which seemed to be the greatest of the concerns for them as well, and rightfully so. Monday morning I was pleasantly surprised when I tried to access Slightly Shumay and it worked. I feel this was a real accomplishment as our county’s school system is very strict when it comes to their firewall and blocked sites. I watched ning tutorials, read blog support posts and once I felt I had a decent understanding for the capabilities of ning I could lay out my plan for the site. Construction of Slightly Shumay began right away. Style, purpose and direction needed to be evident in the site but not it main function. I added self-generated guides using screenr and examples in the photo, video, discussion, blog areas as well as set up RSS feeds from various science websites. The groundwork was set, parent letters sent and email invites ready to send. To date Slightly Shumay has 22 members and the majority of its members have posted content which have led to discussions and further inquiry.
Once again I find myself frustrated with school firewalls and their blanket approach to filtering content. I have always felt that to restrict access to material is not the way to model or teach students proper Internet use, especially personal accountability in filtering content. If students are to be exposed to inappropriate media as they perform searches they will not know to navigate past this trash and find what they are looking for. Also I do consider that most student searches for school related topics will not result in profane sites and nude pictures and for students who would access this material at school do need to be held accountable and potentially have all Internet access at school removed. There is to be a better way to set filters so as to not block out vaguely related sites and media sources. There are very useful videos on YouTube I would love to show my class and posted videos on my Ning site that are not viewable because of such filters.
Fortunately this was not the case with all our resources. We are currently studying rocks and minerals in my sixth grade class and we were working on a set of property’s notes. One of my insanely smart sixth grade students finished well before the others and asked to go on Slightly Shumay for a few minutes to check things out. As the other students finished up we began to discuss the new information. Our discussion led us to discuss elements and included the periodic table of the elements. Each student does have a copy of the table in their planner however, how many middle school students actually have their planner with them in class? As we are talking the student on the computer, who made it under my radar in returning to his seat, raises his hand and asks if I can quickly approve his newly posted photo. I quickly scooted over to my computer to see what he had posted. It was a photo of the periodic table of the elements, which was then incorporated into our discussion. The best part of this situation was that the students in class were able to share in this whole instant information experience and some students who were reluctant to participate in the ning before now came and asked for another permission form so they could get their information and sign up. Slightly Shumay now has an additional 24-invited guest as of December 8th, 2009.