Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Module 4: Networked Life

Ever since I can remember, my parents have religiously read the newspaper.  My mom covers each section thoroughly staying on top of the latest events happening around the world.  If anything related specifically to me or she thought I would find interesting, I would inevitably find a clipped article waiting for me on the counter.  The only thing that I regularly have read in the newspaper was the comics.
My networked life revolves around four tools that are all portable and ready to travel with me at any moment: my cell phone, iPod Touch, laptop and iPad.  All my devices are synched with apps that connect them, so I can access needed information or resources wherever I am.
Social networking keeps me in touch with family and friends and up to date with major events and issues.  Through different pages that I am subscribed to I also receive fitness, health, and parenting tips and advice.  I have also learned about new resources and ideas to incorporate into the classroom through different subscriptions and people that I follow.  My sister and I use FaceTime on a regular basis so we can talk, but most importantly so our children can talk to each other.  My two-year-old son loves talking to his cousin who is a few months older than him.  The Kindle App is one that I use on a daily basis as a way to decompress from the world by reading a good book.
I connect with fellow classmates on assignments through Skype conversations, BlackBoard discussion posts, and Blog posts.  I have developed relationships with classmates across the country who I chat with regularly about classes and life.  Our conversations that started as a class requirement have taken on a life of their own and are often a highlight in my busy day.
My students and I stayed connected through Edmodo, which was a wonderful way to teach students that social networking can also be academic.  I tweet with Twitter in the role of a professional in the world of educational technology, keeping all of my personal life reserved for FaceBook and a little left over for Google+.  Google Drive and Email are the main channels of communication and collaboration in my educational technology department.
I have never been one to turn on the news at night, read a newspaper regularly, or even carry books around to read for professional growth or pleasure. Through my various networking and connections, I am able to stay on top of the latest release in technology and the newest trend in education.  I bring back information to share with my fellow co-workers and classmates.  I rarely change my FaceBook status, but do find a way to stay in touch with friends and family.  And frequently, I am aware of what is happening in the world before my parents are able to read it in the newspaper.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Module 3: Our Connected World - Accomplishing Higher Achievement Through Collaboration

Back in 2005, Howard Rheingold gave a TED Talk focused on the new power of collaboration.  Rheingold will be the first to admit that collaboration is not a new concept; however what is new is the power of technology that lends itself to collaborative efforts today.  One example that Rheingold mentioned is Wikipedia and how thousands of people have volunteered their time and efforts to create a free encyclopedia that in a couple of years has been able to achieve over a million articles that are available in 200 languages.  We now work together under the premise "You prove to me that you are trustworthy and I will cooperate," opposed to the old form of business of "Neither of us can trust each other, so we have to make sub-optimal moves."  Rheingold believes that we have a natural inclination to work collaboratively within groups and cites many different examples beginning in nomadic societies to current times (Rheingold, 2008).

The numerous amounts of people that actively use social networking websites such as FaceBook, Twitter, and Google+, illustrates Rheingold’s belief that people are drawn to interact with each other.  Social networking sites have been evolving from solely being a way for people to connect socially to a way that people connect professionally and academically.  Classrooms are using social networking websites within the classroom as well as to connect with experts out of the classroom.  Sites, such as Edmodo, have been created to give teachers and students a safe, secure way to use academic networking within the classroom.  The variety of ways that students and teachers are able connect through the Internet and the use of mobile devices, enables students and teachers to engage in collaborative efforts that are not restricted by time or location.  Students are able to engage in constructivist activities such as problem-based learning using technology to engage in dialogue, problem solve, research problems and develop solutions.

In a journal article, “School-Wide Implementation of the Elements of Effective Classroom Instruction: Lessons from High-Performing, High Poverty Urban Schools,” one of the research questions that Cooke asks is “What are the organizational structures and systems perceived to contribute to high student performance in high-poverty urban schools with large concentrations of students of color? (Cooke, 2008, p. 93)” Through the different data that was collected six different themes were identified with the first one being collaboration.  The collaborative efforts that were witnessed to contribute towards the schools being effective were faculty working together as well as students working together.  Faculty collaborating together to provide access of the curriculum and support all students was highly valued. Students engaged in activities working together collaboratively to promote higher levels of thinking was also valued.  Not only was collaboration observed school-wide, it was also identified as a key system that ensured high academic success during interviews (Cooke, 2008).

Rheingold has pointed out that we are naturally inclined to work together.  Cooke has proven that it is an effective way of ensuring academic success.  So the question that remains is, why is collaboration not more prevalent nationwide in the K-12 classrooms?

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Cooke, S. (2008). School-wide implementation of the elements of effective classroom instruction:
Lessons from high-performing, high-poverty urban schools. University of Southern California). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, Retrieved from

Rheingold, H. (2008, February). Howard Rheingold on collaboration [Video file]. Retrieved