Saturday, December 7, 2013

EDUC 7718 Final Reflection - Elizabeth Ferry

The final project for EDUC 7718 was definitely a learning process for not only myself, but also for my students.  When I decided to use the selected unit on scatter plots and trend lines, I thought I would have time during the first marking period to implement the unit to all of my classes.  Unfortunately the curriculum and other requirements at school did not allow me enough time to teach what I had to teach and complete this unit.  I had to be creative and find a way to have students complete the unit for this course.
This spring a dozen of my students will be traveling to Quebec with the world language club.  Since the normal time frame for the scatter plot unit is right around the time the trip is being held, I decided to do a practice run of the unit with the dozen students who are attending the trip.  The students understood that they would have work to complete when they were away on the trip.  I told them if they did this unit during lunch time that it would cover their math work they were going to miss.  My students were very accommodating and were more than willing to complete the assignment.
Since the lunch periods are shorter than normal classes, students came up for ten lunch periods to complete the unit instead of the six days that I had initially scheduled for the unit.  This allowed the students to complete the homework for the unit during lunch instead of taking it home with them.  Completing this practice run of the unit helped me see changes that I needed to make before I roll it out with the entire eighth grade.
 Overall the unit went very well.  Although the focus of the unit was scatter plots and trend lines, I paid more attention to the objectives of the students using appropriate strategies to conduct online research.  In addition, I conducted informal surveys with the students and found that not only did they understand the math concepts, but their feedback was focused mainly on the online strategies they learned and how they could use them in other classes.
Unfortunately the class blog was not up and running at the time of the unit implementation.  Students had to use their class journals to produce their blog entries.  It was not what I had initially planned, but I think it will work out better in the spring when all of the students have had time to practice blogging for other classes and the class blog is up and running for an extended period of time.  It was also beneficial for the students to practice what they would write online by using their journals.  Although the initial focus of the lesson was to teach the students effective strategies to use when researching information online, I found that online content creation could also be a learning objective for the lesson.
The students’ responses in their journals helped me see the differences in their language uses.  I know that when I type something online I rely on the spell check function to help me check for accuracy of my typing.  Since the journals do not have spell or grammar check, it gave me insight on the languages they use when they do not have technology to assist them with their responses.  Some students used a good amount of social language with their responses.  When I provided them with their rubrics and they saw that points were taken off for using the social language they were a little bit upset.  I explained that with an academic assignment the terms ‘da bomb diggity’  or ‘aggy’ were not terms that should be used in an academic setting.  These terms were used when the students commented on each others’ journal entries for a homework assignment.  Most of the students stated that since they were responding to their peers they thought they could use that language because it is how they speak to one another on a daily basis.
The discussion of the use of language reminded me of what James Gee spoke of in his book.  As teachers we must model and demonstrate the language that we would like our students to use in an academic setting.  It is important for our students to understand the differences between social cultures and school cultures and the languages which are used in both settings.  (Gee, 110)  If we want our students to be successful with producing academic text, especially online text, we want to make sure they are aware of the language they use when producing academic information.
One of the other areas that I found interesting during the unit was the desire for some of my students to go to the library and use the books there to find the information.  There was a group of students who wanted to go grab an encyclopedia to find the information they needed.  I asked them to try the Internet first and if they still had trouble finding information then they could go to the library.  It took a matter of seconds for the students to tell me that they were able to find the information on the Internet without much effort.  They actually said the part that took the most effort was when I asked them to determine if the site they were using was reliable and finding multiple sites that validated their information.
Technology seemed to help the students complete the unit more effectively and efficiently.  The students were able to use a variety of resources for their information.  In addition, the students were able to utilize strategies that led to successful online research and the completion of the project.
Medium Selection:
I decided to use Google documents for my final reflection because I was able to continually make updates and changes throughout the unit.  As my students were completing the unit, I would take notes in this Google document about their progress.  When it was time to write my reflection, I was able to take my notes and organize them in a way that was presentable for my final product. After I completed the reflection in Google documents, I created a blog entry to allow others to view my reflection as well.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Final Digital Learning Hub Reflection - EDU 720

I will be the first to state that this website is a living "document" in the sense that it will continuously be updated throughout my career.

As mentioned in previous posts, I already have a classroom website that my school provided through a program called TeacherWeb.  If you would like to see what I do on a daily basis with my students you can view the page using the following link:  Mrs. Ferry - TeacherWeb  My students use the website daily to find out their homework and receive updates on any upcoming events.

Since I already had a classroom website, I wanted to create another website that I could use for not only my students but also for teachers looking to increase their use of technology in their own classrooms.  I had a lot of fun using Google sites to create my website.  It is not very flashy and does not have a lot of pictures, actually it does not have any pictures.  What it lacks in luster though, it makes up for in content in my opinion.

My initially plan was to give teachers of any content area a website that they could use that would direct them to a variety of online resources.  At the beginning of November, I was asked to provide professional development to teachers in my district's math department.  They wanted me to present a session that would last 90 minutes about online Common Core resources.  I saw this as an opportunity to do a sort of "soft" introduction of my website.  During the session I introduced twelve math and special education teachers to my web page and in particular to the category titled Common Core Resources.  I did not spend a lot of time lecturing to them about the resources, rather I had them basically play for an hour or so with the resources.

At the end of the session I had the participants complete a survey using survey monkey.  I wanted to see if they were pleased with the website and if they would use it for their professional use.  92% of the participants felt that the website was either extremely useful or very useful.  The remaining 8% found it to be somewhat useful.  In addition, 82% of participants felt that there were websites they they could use in their classroom or for their professional use as a teacher.

The survey results confirmed to me that I was on the right path with my digital learning hub.  Since the professional development, I added more resources under all of the categories.  You will notice also that I wanted to create a category specifically for online content creation.  After serving as discussion director and then completing my unit lesson with my students, I am eager to begin implementing online content creation lessons for my students.  I want to help them with their digital footprint with academic content that they create online.

The link to my website can be found at or by using this link: Mrs. Ferry - Tech to Teach

As always any suggestions or comments would be greatly appreciated!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

EDU 720 Week 12 - Evaluating Online Material For Accuracy

Dear Journal,

I just finished teaching my unit on scatter plots and trend lines.  Believe it or not, I actually incorporated online reading into my unit!  Boy were my students surprised when we started to discussed comprehension, validity of resources and using citations.  “This is math class!”  My students shouted.  “Why do we need to do literacy?”  Of course after calmly explaining to them the need to conduct online research in all content areas, they began to warm up to the lesson.  Thank goodness my students are so understanding at times!

While reading the assignment this week, I was struck by the quote at the very end of Chapter 38a that read, “Truth is designed by counts of mouse clicks rather than by textbooks or encyclopedia authors.” (Harrrison, 1290)  One of the main focuses during my online reading unit for my class was making sure my students were able to determine the validity and accuracy of the information they were finding online.  As I reading through the case studies, I noticed that other teachers such as Julie and Leigh had similar concerns for their students.  

In the case study, I really liked the way the Julie taught her students to be “intelligent consumers” when using the Internet.  Similar to this thought, I discussed with my students how it is important to analyze the information that they receive and make a determination as to whether or not the information is reliable.  Some of my students were not quite sure how to check the validity of information online.  Therefore, prior to conducting research I spent one class period discussing with my students the importance of finding reputable resources online.  The following checklist was used by my students to help determine if the source they were using was creditable.  Evaluating Online Resources Checklist (C.A.R.S.)   The checklist was created by Robert Harris and can be duplicated for non-profit and educational use.

After the unit was complete many of my students commented on how they actually slowed down when they were conducting the research.  They said the checklist made them look at the websites closer than they have ever looked before to determine if what they were finding was accurate.  In addition, they mentioned how much more information they received when they were paying more attention to the overall content of the websites and not just scrolling to find their answers and moving on after they got what they were looking for from a site.

In my opinion, the checklists helped with the overall online comprehension of my students.  Not only did they learn skills that would help them find valid information, they also took the time to really analyze the information on the sites.  A few other teachers in my school will be having the students conduct online research and they plan on using a similar if not the same checklist because of the positive results I saw in my class.

The second focus of our unit was to have my students find multiple sources to validate their findings.  It was mentioned in Chapter 38 that the teacher named Leigh also required students to find multiple sources to backup their findings. (Karchmer, 1265)  This technique not only allowed my students to validate their findings, but it also provided more detailed responses to questions.  I found that as they visited more websites, they were able to gather more information about the topic and include that in their answers.  This was an excellent way for my students to have more examples, details, and descriptions that made their responses richer with a deeper sense of meaning.  
In Chapter 38a the author stated, “A valuing of multiple perspectives leads us to a closer approximation to what is to be regarded as “true.”  (Harrison, 1292)  After the unit was complete, my students discussed similar ideas to this quote.  They mentioned how they would find a piece of information on one site and then read it again on two or three more sites.  Once they used the checklist to make sure the site was reliable, they would tally how many times they found a certain piece of information.  A few students even stated that they would not include certain answers in their responses if they could not find more than four sites that had the same information.  Since my students have a tendency to rush through many of their assignments in the past, I felt as if they truly learned the meaning of patience with their education when completing this unit.  Hopefully they will carry these skills with them throughout their future education.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

EDU 720 Discussion Director Reflection

This past week I had the opportunity to serve as the discussion director for course EDU 720.  The topic for the discussion was social media and the participants were asked to read and watch the following articles and video:
Chapter 36 - Handbook of Research of New Literacy
Social Privacy in Networked Publics:Teens' Attitudes, Practices and Strategies
Christine Greenhow

Initially, I was nervous about serving as discussion director.  Everyone who served in the role before me did such a wonderful job, I was afraid that my assignment would not be educational or interesting enough to receive positive participation.  What I did not expect though was for the assignment to greater further my understanding of the topic.

For the assignment I asked everyone to provide their takeaways on two of the three readings and to connect their takeaways to song titles.  The song title idea came from a part of the Chapter 36 reading where one of the study participants mentioned how him and his friend had an entire IM conversation using song titles.  I thought it would be interesting to see what songs people would pick to summarize the resources that they were assigned to read/watch.

In addition, I wanted to utilize a new website that I found that could be used in a classroom to encourage online conversations between students.  I asked the participants to put their response in  Twiducate under a class that I created.  The site allowed all of the users to view each other's responses and provided them an opportunity to comment on other's entries as well.

I admit that each time I received an email saying there was a new posting, I was so excited to see what song titles people selected and what their takeaways were from the readings and video.  Not only were the posts interesting, but they also allowed me to continually think about the topic of social media and how it could be used within classrooms and with youths today.

As I reflected on the posts and this week's discussion, I took the song titles that everyone shared and put them together in groups based on each resource.  When I did this I realized that everyone truly took this assignment to heart and attempted to find the most perfect song title to make the connection that they were looking for in their responses.   It was a creative way for each person to not only share their opinions differently, but also a way to summarize the resources with using only a few words.  I found it interesting that so many of the songs were similar to each other and even one person even commented that someone else took the song they were thinking of using.

Below is a list of the song titles chosen for each resource:

Chapter 36 of the Handbook:
     -  Who Are You?
     -  Rumour Has It
     -  Come As You Are
     -  Decode

Christine Greenhow Video:
     -  Imagine
     -  Power to the People
     -  Don't Stop
     -  Changes
     -  Daft Punk
     -  For What It's Worth
     -  With a Little Help From My Friends

Social Privacy in Networked Publics:
     -  Parents Just Don't Understand
     -  None of Your Business
      -  Eye In the Sky
      -  Private Eyes
      -  Every Breath You Take

Songs used to describe all of the resources:
    -  A Social Network for Two: A Modern Love Song
     -  Where Do Children Play?

Overall I felt the discussion went very well.  When completing the grading rubrics for each person, I felt as if I had so much to write about what they had to say.  I was extremely pleased with the responses by everyone and could not have asked for a better group of participants!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Reflection - Open Mic 3 Twitteracy EDUC 7718

Working with my group members on the Open Mic #3, I realized how fortunate I am to have found such wonderful individuals to collaborate with on an academic level.  Our group worked very well together.  In my opinion we all carried the responsibilities equally.

In my opinion Sally was definitely the creative one of the group.  She came up with the idea of the Twitteracy and helped us come together as group to create the prompts and foundation of the Open Mic.  It is a digital literacy tool that many of students are utilizing on a daily basis.

I was responsible for completing rubrics for half of the individuals who responded to the prompts.  I truly felt that my responsibility led to a greater understanding of the topic.  Completing the rubrics made me reflect more deeply on the responses provided by the other students.  This allowed me to ask more questions to the respondents as well as internally reflect on my personal opinion on the topic.

After the assignment I began researching a variety of online tools that could be use similar to Twitter.  As the discussion director this week for EDU 720, I am using the free website  This site is similar to Twitter, but is designed for individual classroom use.  I felt it would be a great way to reiterate the topic of Twitteracy through another course.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Unit Plan Reflection ED 7718

Initially I was nervous that I would be unable to receive my unit feedback on Wednesday night, due to my doctor's orders.  I knew my group would be willing to meet with me another night if needed, but thankfully they were willing to have me via Hangout.  Thank goodness I was able to meet with my group, because I received wonderful and helpful feedback regarding my unit.

First, I have to say that I love knowing how to use Google Hangouts!  Thank you IT&DML courses for making it a part of the program.  It allowed me to feel part of the feedback process without getting everyone else sick.

Second, I love using Google Docs when collaborating with others.  It allowed my partners to see my work since I could not give them my hard copies I made.  It also gave them the ability to comment on my unit proposal while they were discussing different items with me.

It was great to have group members with a variety of backgrounds.  Sally and Cathy both have literacy backgrounds and they provided feedback on how I could improve my math lesson with literacy standards.  With Amy sharing her math lesson with us, I was able to see what she was using in her high school math classroom and make changes and additions to improve my math lesson.

Not being a primary literacy person, I often use broad terms to describe literacy standards.  My group helped me reword my unit plan, so it clearly demonstrates what literacy focus I want it to have for my students.  Initially I was broadly stating reading comprehension, but my group discussed with me that my primary focus for my students was information literacy based on my proposal and what I created so far with the unit.

Another area that my group helped me with was how I would grade my students' progress of the strategies they used for information literacy.  During the unit I will be having my students blog on a variety of literacy strategies that they used during the lessons.  Although I had a rubric for the end of the unit presentation, I did not have one created for the blog responses.  After the feedback session, I took my group's recommendation and began created a rubric for my students to use for their daily blog responses.  I know this rubric will help the students identify the strategies and reflect on their processes productively.

Overall I was very happy with our group's feedback session.  I also enjoy reading the reflections posted by other groups.  They are helping me look at my unit and seeing if I can improve upon what I have done so far.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

My New Website Using Google Sites

My school uses a website program called TeacherWeb.  I have a website on TeacherWeb that is dedicated to my math classroom.  The following is a link to that site:  Mrs. Ferry's Website - Mauro Sheridan Magnet School

I was going to work on updating this website and improving it as much as possible.  As I was working on it, I realized that I wanted to take my website beyond the math classroom.  I decided to begin creating a website on Google Sites that focused on all multiple areas, not just math.

Of course this is a work in progress and I want to continue making daily changes to the site until I feel it provides fantastic resources for any teacher.  In addition to creating the website, I also created a URL shortcut on to the site.

The following link will take you directly to my new site: Tech to Teach

It can also be reached by going to

Please know that this is a work in progress and by December it will be a wonderful resource for teachers to use in their classrooms.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Conversations, Discussions, and Presentations - EDUC 7718 Week 6 Response

Please feel free to view/listen to my response for Prompt 1 for week 6.

It was easier for me to record myself responding to this prompt.  I drafted my written response and it was over seven pages long.  I figured if I would record myself I would not bore anyone too much!

Please feel free to leave comments or questions.

Thank you!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Determining Accuracy and Validity of Online Information - Algebra I

Determining the Accuracy and Validity of Online Information - Algebra I

Online reading comprehension can be integrated at any level of math.  The following is a unit that can be used for upper middle school and high school Algebra I.  This unit is designed to not only teach students how to determine if information they find online is accurate and valid, but also to provide a different instructional strategy for teaching math content.

Algebra I Unit - Scatter Plots, Trend Lines, and Online Reading Comprehension

Overview and Day 1:
This unit will focus primarily on scatter plots and trend lines.  The students will be required to complete online research using online reading comprehension strategies.  Prior to beginning the actual math portion of the lesson, students will spend one day completing an online reading comprehension activity that teaches them how to conduct basic searches online and determine the validity of a resource.

Students will watch the PowerPoint presentation titled “Wading Through the Web”.  This PowerPoint and lesson is from the Read Think Write website and can be found at the following link: Wading Through the Web

While they are watching the presentation, students will each have a laptop that has Internet access so they can follow along during the presentation and conduct searches.  They will complete the worksheet that goes with the PowerPoint as well.

At the end of class, the teacher will discuss with the students how it will relate to tomorrow’s lesson where they will need to conduct research online.

Throughout the unit, students will be required to keep a journal on either their own blog or the class blog. 

Day 1 Homework:  Students will complete a blog entry on the class blog and discuss one strategy they learned about researching information on the Internet.

Day 1 Homework Rubric

Material Need for Day 1:
-  Laptops with Internet for all students
-  Wading Through the Web PowerPoint presentation
-  Wading Through the Web worksheet

Day 2:
After day one, students will then begin the math lesson where they will be asked to collect data on bone measurements of a skeleton and foot and height measurements of themselves and their partner.  They will then conduct research on the Tunxis Indians and Will Warren from Farmington, Connecticut.  In addition, they will gather information using the Internet on historical heights of human from different time periods.

Students will work in cooperative pairs to complete today’s activity.  They will be handed the following worksheet to receive an introduction to the lesson: Day 2 - Get Ready Worksheet

After reading through the introduction worksheet, students will begin working on the data collection portion of the activity.  Day 2 - Data Collection Worksheet

Stations will be set up around the room to allow each group to complete the worksheet.  There will be seven stations, three which will require Internet access, two that will have skeleton bones to measure, one where they will measure themselves, and the final station will be based on the introduction worksheet.

Once the students have rotated around to all of the stations, they will compare their results with another cooperative group.  If time permits, the students will work on converting the height units from station 7.

Day 2 Homework:  Students will blog about the process they used to complete the online research.  They will need to discuss what process they used to find the necessary information.  Did they use specific keywords?  How they did decide which sites to use for what information?  Did they notice anything different on any sites that told them they should or should not use the site as a reliable source?

Day 2 Homework Rubric

Material Need for Day 2:
-  At least 3 laptops/computers with Internet access
-  Two separate bone pieces of a skeleton
-  Measuring tapes at three stations
-  Data Collection Worksheet
- Calculators

Day 3:
Students will complete data collection from the whole class and use computer to enter the data on a spreadsheet.  They will then create graphs, analyze the data and create algebraic equations to represent the relationship between two variables.  In addition, they will find the mean of the classes’ measurements.

Students will work with their cooperative pairs again to complete today’s activity.  Each group member will receive the data analysis worksheet and a measuring tape. Day 3 - Data Analysis Worksheet

Each group will measure their femur and tibia bones and provide the information to the teacher who will type the results into a spreadsheet which will be projected on the board.  (If there is not projection available, a table can be constructed on the board which students can fill in their information)

Students will then work in cooperative pairs to create scatter plots of the information.  After all the data is placed on the scatter plots, students will draw lines of best fit for both sets of data.  They will then create separate equations for the two scatter plots by using two points from each line.  With the equation they will be able to answer the remaining questions on the worksheet.

Day 3 Homework: Students will comment on at least one other student's blog entry that they found similar to their own experience when conducting the online research.

Day 3 Homework Rubric

Material Need for Day 3:
-  Teacher needs access to a computer with a spreadsheet program and projection capabilities for the entire class to see the information on the spreadsheet.
-  Data Analysis Worksheet
-  Calculators
-  Rulers
-  Measuring Tapes

Day 4:
Students will make predictions on bone lengths and circumferences of bones from the data collected the previous classes.  They will create algebraic equations to relate the year and the height of both men and women throughout multiple time periods.

Students will continue to work in cooperative pairs to complete today’s worksheet.  Day 4 - Prediction Worksheet

They will use information gathered from days 2 and 3 to complete the worksheet and make predictions.  In addition, students will create algebraic equations to demonstrate the relationship between the year and a person’s height based on gender.  If time permits at the end of class, students will share with the entire class the solutions they found. They will also share what resources they used to find the information.

Day 4 Homework: Students will work with their group partners and look up one of the websites that another group used to conduct the research. They will use the ORC strategies that they learned on Day 1 to determine if the site had valid information. After they have reviewed the site, they will collaborate with their partner and write a reflection on the class blog about whether or not the site was valid using the ORC strategies to justify their reflection.

Day 4 Homework Rubric

Materials Needed for Day 4:
-  Data Prediction Worksheet
-  Worksheets from days 2 and 3

Day 5:
Students will create a slide presentation documenting their finding.  They will also provide a reflection piece in the presentation that will address the strategies they used when conducting the online research.

To conclude the unit, students will work in their cooperative pairs to create a slide show presentation.  The presentation will be based on a scenario similar to the Will Warren situation.  They will need to address all of the areas in the rubric and provide a reflection on what they found was useful when conducting research online and any strategies they learned from Day 1 that they applied to their project.

Day 5 - Presentation Grading Rubric

Homework Day 5: Students will complete a final blog entry on the entire ORC process that they used when completing their project. In addition, they will reflect on working with their group partner on the project and what they found helpful when working with another individual when conducting an assignment that requires online reading comprehension.
Day 5 Homework Rubric

Materials Needed For Day 5:
- Computer for each cooperative pair with Internet access
- Worksheets from the previous classes

Day 6:
Students will present their presentation to the class.

Materials Needed for Day 6:
-  Individual group presentations
-  Computer with projection capabilities

Common Core
The following 8th Grade Algebra I Common Core standards will be addressed within this lesson:

Linear, Quadratic and Exponential Models
HSF-LE.A.1 - Distinguish and compare linear, quadratic, and exponential models and solve problems.

HSF-LE.A.2 - Construct linear and exponential functions, including arithmetic and geometric sequences, given a graph, a description of a relationship, or two input-output pairs.

Interpreting Categorical and Quantitative Data
HSS-ID.B.6 - Represent data on two quantitative variables on a scatter plot, and describe how the variables are related.
HSS-ID.C.8 - Compute (using technology) and interpret the correlation coefficient of a linear fit.

Statistics and Probability
8.SP.A.1 - Construct and interpret scatter plots for bivariate measurement data to investigate patterns of association between two quantities.
8.SP.A.2 - Know that straight lines are widely used to model relationships between two quantitative variables.

Works Cited:

- Day 1's lesson is from, a wonderful website that provides classroom resources and lesson plans to assist teachers.

- The worksheets from Days 2-5 are from the Connecticut State Department of Education Algebra I curriculum. Some of the worksheets were modified to focus on the online reading comprehension strategies used in the unit.

Five Strategies of Online Reading Comprehension Used in Math

Comprehension is extremely important when solving math problems.  Marilyn Burns, founder of Math Solutions Professional Development, wrote an article in Leadership Compass about the importance of comprehension within the math classrooms.  Marilyn Burns - Leadership Compass She stated that, “Comprehension is key to being a successful reader, and the same standard should hold true for math.”  (Burns, 2005) Online reading comprehension for math can be instructed in a similar way as it is taught in a tradition reading classroom.  The five components of ORC, questioning, locating, evaluating, synthesizing, and communicating, are all used within math, but they may have different words used to describe the processes.  Marilyn Burns asked professional to identify key strategies for reading and they then related them to strategies that are used for solving math problems.  (Burns, 2005)  We then took the strategies identified and connected them to the five ORC strategies for math.  

Students are often asked to make predictions while they are reading.  In math, students are asked to estimate possible answers to their problems.  For ORC in math, students can estimate what the solution will be prior to searching for their answers.  By estimating the solution, they will have a general idea of what information they find online is accurate and valid.
As with reading, vocabulary is an essential component for math.  When locating information online, students need to understand the terminology and vocabulary that is being used in text.  Teachers and students can create an online reading word chart that they can refer to when using the Internet.  These vocabulary words will assist students with locating the information they are looking for quickly and accurately.Evaluating
Once students receive their information from online, they are then asked to evaluate what they found.  For math students can take the information and compare it to their estimates.  They also can determine if the information came from a replicable online domain.
Students will take the information they found and apply different method of problem solving and reasoning to determine if they are able to find a solution to the problem.

All students will not necessarily have the same problem solving techniques for each math problem, therefore communication is key when completing math assignments online.  Students are encouraged to work in small group, whole class, and cooperative pairs to discuss their findings.  Reflection will be used to allow students to reflect on the strategies that worked well when completing ORC for math problems.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Response Week 4 - Visual Profiling

For this week's response I wanted to practice using Google Slides and Hangouts on Air.  The following is a presentation of my response for week 4 for EDU 718.  Enjoy!

Friday, September 20, 2013

ED 7718 Week 3 Response

For this week’s assignment I decided to use Google docs to share my response.  Truthfully I am more comfortable speaking my responses and would prefer to record myself, but I think I could get carried away very easily with this topic.  By using Google docs I can limit what others have to read.  In addition, I can focus on the main points of my response instead of tangents that I tend to go off on when speaking.

How many master myths/cultural models/ figured worlds  are at work in your school situation?  How do they conflict or agree with each other?  
For the past five years, I have worked at a magnet school in the city of New Haven.  I truly believe that magnet schools offer students more than just an excellent school environment.  They also provide the students with day to day lessons in diversity and cultural education.  
The lessons in diversity and cultural education comes from the master myths, cultural models, and figured worlds that are present amongst our student body.  Since we do have a diverse population at my school, I would like to focus my response to one consistent figured world that I have seen through my five years in New Haven.  This figured world pertains to families, specifically when discussing parental figures and siblings.
At the beginning of each year, the eighth grade teachers spend a day introducing the students to not only their classes, but also to themselves as individuals.  The eighth grade team is made up of four women, two married with kids, one single with a son, and one single without kids.  During the introductions the students ask different questions about our backgrounds and our families.  Each year the teachers who are married will get asked if their husband lives with them, or how many other children their husbands have, or even if their husbands have girlfriends.  These are middle school students who are very curious and in my opinion harmless.  They say what they think before they actually realize what they are saying.
At first, I was sort of offended when I was asked these questions, because in my figured world I would never have imagined such a thing.  As Gee stated, “A cultural world or figured world is a picture of a simplified world that captures what is taken to be typical or normal.”  To me these questions were not normal, but as my fellow teacher and I discussed, our students see these questions as normal, because this is their figured world.  Most of them do not have two parents in the house.  They come from single parent homes, usually their mothers are the caregivers, and they may not see their fathers often.  In addition, they have multiple siblings, mostly half siblings because they share one parent, but not the other.  To them the “typical” family is one where a family consists of a mother and child or children.  The child’s father does not live with the mother, but usually has other children with other women.
One other example of a figured world at my school was when I told my students that I was expecting my son.  My students were very excited for me, but what I found most interesting was the comment that one young lady made to the eighth grade teachers.  She said that she was surprised that I was pregnant and not Ms. Walker, who is the single teacher without kids on our team.  When we asked her why she was surprised, she said that she thought everyone got pregnant before marriage and if they were married without kids it meant that they could not have any.  She then gave us five examples of her family members that had kids and were not married.  To her this comment seemed reasonable, but to the eighth grade team we were very surprised.  We later found that she did not have any family members who had kids after they were married.  All of the children were born out of wedlock.  When reading about figured worlds, the comment makes much more sense to me now knowing that she was only basing what she said on the world that she was accustomed to in her daily life.  It was her figured world.
At first I was not sure if these examples could be related to language, but then I remembered the eighth grade language arts teacher telling me how the school district changed the novels the students were assigned to read a few years ago.  They moved away from the typical eighth grade text that most schools were using and they started introducing text that, as the language arts teacher said, “ Was more culturally aligned to our student body.”
Is it (as Gee suggests) “the job of the teacher to allow students to grow beyond both the cultural models of their home cultures and those of the mainstream and school culture”????   Should it be more than “allow”, should it be “require”????    How does this play against (or with) the right of every individual to be him or herself and stay that way?
The comment made by the language arts teacher made me think a lot about my response to this question.  As expressed by Gee, “All cultural models tend ultimately to limit our perception of differences and of new possibilities.”  If we as educators only give our students text they can relate to, are we too creating a world that only personifies their own figured worlds?      
Our eighth graders are required to read “Monster” by Walter Dean Myers, “Getting Away With Murder: The True Story of the Emmett Till Case” by Chris Crowe, and “Slumming” by Kristen D. Randle.  Our language arts teacher has said that she has seen students relate to these text much more than previous texts required by the district.  Although they can relate more to these text, I worry that it will not allow them to be introduced to other cultural models that exist.
I agree with Gee that teachers should focus students’ attention to relevant points of the cultural worlds.  If we do not allow students to see the connection between worlds and help them relate them to one another, then they will only have a one sided view of society.  Every individual can maintain his or her individuality with the focus provided by the teachers.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”  A teacher’s role should be to help students identify the aspects of their own figured worlds that not only individualize them, but also help them succeed amongst others with similar and with different views.