Sunday, December 18, 2011

Final Thoughts

What a journey this semester has been! I signed up for EDUC 578 expecting to gain access to quantitatively-based empirical research supporting (or actually, not supporting) technology use in the classroom. I didn’t expect to be allowed to bring my laptop to class, let alone to use it as the basis of my learning. When a complete 180 breezed in in the form of Professor Heil, I knew I was in for a radical paradigm shift.
Instead of spending the semester burying my nose in books, I have spent the semester building a whole new cyber body. I now have a living, breathing persona in the World Wide Web. Instead of writing pages upon pages of reviews on articles for a single professor to read (that I, myself, would never read again), I have spent the semester cultivating tools that I use daily and take my free time to show off to friends. I made friends with blogger, building a blog that is part class reflection, part soul searching ( read BYOG and Procreation). I also stretched my technological and creative limits by exploring blogger’s dynamic views and customization options with Christina’s Creative Writing Cookbook which I highlighted in my final reflection project. I’ve opened a twitter account, built a PLN, become an active member of twitter groups in my field, diigo’d my heart out and songified everything.
But not everything I’ve learned has been about technology. In fact, I would say that the majority of my knowledge growth I’ve experienced in this course is explicitly not about technology. Thanks to Daniel Pink, I’ve given more thought to the legitimate importance of beauty in business and in life. Class discussions related to Clayton Christensen’s Disrupting Class have changed the way I view the future of education. For a start, I have a newfound respect for online education. Thanks to our professor, I have questioned society’s obsession with grades for the first time in my life. I’ve have spent time inside the walls of a high school for pregnant and parenting teens that gave me a new lens with which to view the purpose of education (see my full reflection on that experience below). I spent a week exploring my passion for yoga which lead to an ongoing conversation with God. How cool is that? In my syllabus this semester I told my students that their success as students was the measure of my success as a teacher. In giving myself an A, I’m giving Professor Heil an A+…and I know how much he treasures letter grades ;)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Checking in from out of town

After reading, I hope you get the double entendre of this pic
I'm posting this because I think it will bring a quick smile to our professor Heil's face. I left sunny San Diego on Thursday immediately after my final class of the semester. I was home bound for the first time in over half a year. My students' final papers were graded, my final papers and assignment were turned in and I was free!...So what am I doing here? Well it's actually not even the first time I've checked in since coming home. First I wanted to show off my blog and cookbook to my dad. We had a long discussion on how I could bling up the new website on teaching Arabic students that I plan to create after I finish my Master's thesis. This is not part of the project, I'm doing it because I want to share what I'm learning. I've found myself periodically checking in on  my classmates' blogs as well. I'm anxious to see everyone's final reflection projects! I've also been checking in with my ESL twitter peeps...just because I want to. And I guess therein, is the point of this post. I am no longer checking in, posting and generally participating in the cyber world because it's part of a class, a grade, an obligation. I'm doing it because I want to. Because I have found myself intrinsically motivated to keep on keepin' on. When I went to show my dad my blog and cookbook, I wasn't logged in to my bookmarks so I simply googled myself. And guess what? I was the top 3 results! And that's when it hit me--I'm no longer a visitor, I'm a bonafide resident! Man, it feels good to be home.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Digital Reflection Project

Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required. A couple of things I ran out of time before I got a chance to mention...the site I used for the cookbook was blogger with a dynamic view. The device I used for the recording of my digital reflection project was Jing (a new obsession of mine!) Thanks for listening :)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Observation-Lindsay Community High School

Students at Lindsay school share lunchtime with their children.
If you're interested in learning more about Lindsay Community HS
for pregnant and parenting teens, here is a link
to a recent article about the school.
Photo: Sam Hodgson

When professor Heil set the assignment for a class visit to any school utilizing technology, I imagined myself spending a day comfortably seated in the back of a classroom at some wealthy, teched-out school. My preconception couldn't have been further from the reality of my visit to Lindsay Community High School. Lindsay is a school for pregnant and parenting teens located in a intimidating corner of downtown San Diego.  What I noticed first when I timidly entered a classroom was not the Smart board on the wall but the newborn cradled next to her teen mom. Was there technology in use? Once I was able to focus on anything besides the alien concept of babies in the classroom, I noticed that why yes, there was. At the time we entered, the students were in the process of working on blog responses to a recent reading they had done. The atmosphere was simultaneously autonomous and collaborative. Students were able to work at their own pace (good thing too, when one must sporadically pause to feed or sooth a baby) but the sense of community was palpable.

I must admit that while on our school tour my intrigue with the dramatic life story of our young, heavily pregnant guide (a former graduate of LCHS) overshadowed my interest in anything technology related. It wasn't until after leaving the school, while digesting the experience along with an egg salad sandwich, that I came to the realization that this particular school was the poster school for disruptive innovation.

Each of the students have such unique academic needs. They come in ages that in no way correspond to a set grade level. It would be nearly impossible for a mainstream high school to meet their needs. This is exactly the situation that calls for modularity--individually customized lessons that target the individual, not the group. I'm not saying that these girls could get a better education working individually from home, because school is so much more than curricular; it's social. The community built at LCHS has LITERALLY saved lives. Our young guide believes it saved hers. But to have the opportunity to use school for that community-oriented purpose, without sacrificing learning, would be ideal. This must be what Christensen, Horn and  Johnson were getting at in their book Disrupting Class: How disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns. Internally, I have been fighting with the concept of customization in schools because I thought it would equivocate isolation and loss of community. Finally, I see how the two worlds could merge with schools being brick-and-mortar institutions of socialization and computerized learning being an academic support system.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Feeling the love from my PLN!

I realized something great today...I really do have a PLN! I'll admit I started this journey just going through the motions. Sure I'll get a twitter account (insert eyeroll), sure I'll start a blog (insert sigh), etc, etc. After a rousing #ellchat session tonight that left me feeling heard and inspired, I came to a great realization: I really do have a PLN; a network of peers in the ESLindustry that I am sharing with and learning from on a daily basis. When I found myself stoked to be free at the time of the weekly #ellchat today, I realized that my participation in my PLN is no longer an assignment (eyeroll, sigh) but a genuine interest (cheer). I have made real connections with people who I recognize and have become accustomed to interacting with. I'm sure I'll be keeping it up once the semester ends for my own personal and professional purposes.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

My "cookbook" got favorited!

After finally finishing my creative writing blog I forced myself to take the plunge and put it out there in the twitterverse. I even stepped outside my #usdedu comfort zone and added some other groups I have been active in or lurking around. I was surprized to see that the blog immidiately got 100s of views (which I know is a dismal number in cyberworld but I was impressed nonetheless). Even more surprizing to me was that my twitter post on the cookbook was "favorited" by quite a few "strangers" on twitter. I put strangers in quote marks because I see no direct link to them through any of the groups I'm active with. The power of networking is truly amazing and EDUC 578 has shown me that in ways I may never have allowed myself experience.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Cookbook is up!

Though it is still very much a work in progress, I am pleased to announce that Christina's Creative Writing Cookbook is up and running! The website is a compilation of creative writing activities I have been doing with my adult ESL students at USD's English Language Academy this semester. I call them weekly writing warm ups (www's). I create the prompts to use as a warmer once per week. Their purpose is to spend class time focused on writing fluency as opposed to accuracy and to  get students to write just for the joy of it. So far it has been quite a success. My class even demanded double www's this week! Check it out here. I'd love to hear your feedback.