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.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Girl Can Dream, Can't She.... at least about her digital learning hub!

One of the many things I love about my school is that they purchased Teacherweb and licenses for teachers to create their own webpage for their class.  If you want to check out my site you can find it using the following link: Mrs. Ferry's Webpage

I fully admit that my webpage is nowhere close to what I want it to be.  Honestly after taking our three courses this past summer, I have worked on updating my website and using it for more than just listing the homework.  I want to be realistic though and understand with recent budget cuts I should prepare for when I might have to create my own webpage and not use the school's resources.

In general I want my digital learning hub to be one that is constantly alive and not stagnant.  Since technology and the resources online are constantly changing and being updated I feel that is what my website should be as well.  For my students it should be the ICT that they use for not only my class, but hopefully all classes.

Although I am a math teacher, I want to take what I learn in the IT&DML courses to reach out to my students and my fellow teachers in all academic areas.  Imagine what it would be like to have one website that would direct you to Internet sites that could assist you with online research, solving algebraic equations, identifying successful science fair projects, and looking for common themes between great literature pieces?  For both students and teacher alike, this type of resource would be an amazing resource and it would take the guessing out of looking through numerous search engine res

The webpage would have categories on the left hand side that list different subject matters.  Under each subject matter it could be broken down into grade levels and content topics.  In addition, there would be links and resources available for Common Core lesson plans and activities.  I get excited just thinking about what could be designed to assist my learners and fellow teachers.  Unfortunately I think about the time it would take to research and find the material, create the webpage, and constantly keep it updated with the most up to date information as possible.  It would be a full time job just keeping up the website, but boy would it be worth it!

As Leu, Kinzer, Coiro, and Cammack stated 2004, "It will be up to each of us to recognize the continually changing nature of literacy and to develop a rich understanding of these changes."  Personally I feel at times it is hard enough to keep track of new curriculum and procedures in my own district and school.  I am sure there are other teachers who would share my concern and would like to have one resource available that could keep them up to date on the new literacies and how to implement them into our classrooms.

If a girl could dream about what her learning hub would be like, this would be it, one place where anyone and everyone could find resources that would help them succeed whether they were a teacher or a student.  The learning hub would be updated regularly and continually change to account for the changes in literacies and new resources that are available on the Internet.  It would take the guessing out of what search engine results are legit and which ones are really useful for academic use.  The time spent shifting through the Internet would be reduced and more time could be dedicated to learning actual content material.

My Biker Bar Moment - ED 7718

a.  (Your own Biker Bar moment) Describe an occasion on which you felt entirely out of your depth, “other” “I do not fit in here” “everybody gets it but me”; what in you and the situation contributed to that feeling?
I had the distinct honor of being accepted to the United States Coast Guard Academy during my senior year of high school.  Coming from a small town in Northeast Ohio, this acceptance was a big deal not only for myself, but also for my community.  I was one of five individuals from my high school class to attend a college outside of Ohio.  In addition, only forty percent of my high school class planned to attend a four year college after graduation.
It was a big deal for me to receive an acceptance.  Initially I was accepted to West Point, but was on the wait list for the Coast Guard Academy.  It was after I called the Director of Admissions and asked what I needed to do to receive a full acceptance, that my actual acceptance letter arrived in the mail with a note that stated, “Don’t forget that the squeaky wheel always gets heard.  Congratulations!”.
This note and the support from my community gave me an extra little giddy up in my step when I arrived to the campus on the first day of Swab Summer.  I knew that everyone else who was attending probably shared similar academic and leadership qualities as myself.  As we were sworn in on the parade field, I said goodbye to my family with a smile on my face and headed off to Dimick Auditorium for our first all hands meeting and my first of many “Biker Bar” moments while I was in college.
The first discussion during the all hands meeting was our class’ statistics.  They showed us our class average GPA from high school.  Since my high school GPA was above the class average, I felt pretty good about myself.  Next, they showed us the breakdown of how many of us were class presidents, National Honor Society members, team captains, etc.  Again, I felt pretty good about my acceptance, since I had a number of those positions listed on my high school resume.  Then they showed us the average SAT score.  I knew my score was probably on the lower end of the class average, since I had to take the test five times before I received the minimum score to apply to the Academy.  When they put our class SAT average on the screen, the person sitting next to me gasp out loud.  I immediately turned towards her and said, “Oh thank goodness someone else is as surprised as me with how high the average is.  I was afraid I would be the only one.”  I cannot begin to describe the look of disgust that she gave me.  “Surprised?” She asked.  “Really you are surprised?  My score was 200 points higher than our average.  How could you be surprised?  Our average is so low!”
Insert Biker Bar moment here.  I realized that she figured out that our class average was so low because of someone like me who had a very low SAT score compared to others in my class.  I felt completely out of place at that moment and throughout my entire freshman year.  Especially since I had three classes with the girl who looked at me like I was a disgrace to the institution.  I never participated in my classes that she was in with me and I rarely spoke when called on in other classes.  I was afraid of what she or others might think of me.  It really impacted my first year of college and unfortunately changed the type of student I was for at least a year.
It was not until the start of our Sophomore year when we returned from our separate summer training assignments that I found out that she ended up failing out of the Academy.  I realized that test scores were not a reflection of the type of student someone is and I have carried this realization with me when I transitioned from the military to education.  Since student test scores are a primary focus of schools, I keep in the back of my mind my “Biker Bar” moment and realize that students are more than a number.  It is my job as a teacher to determine where their strengths and weaknesses are and help them improve in all areas.
I look at my Biker bar moment similar Chapter 2 of Gee's book about meaning.  What is the true meaning of students' test scores?  As educators, I think sometimes we look at test scores and generalize what type of students we have in our classrooms prior to them arriving in class.  We see them as either basic, proficient, goal or advanced.  Does a basic test score mean that a student is not smart or has the skill set in a certain content area?  I think in most cases that is what some of us teachers assume initially.  Then again could the student just not be good at test taking?   (I always think about this case since I struggled with standardized tests.)  Could they have had a bad day when they were taking a certain portion of the test during the previous year?  What other things were going on in the student's life that could have effected the scores?  The meaning of test scores can change from student to student.  As educators I think we need to remember that test scores do not define our students. It is our responsibility to determine where their strengths and weaknesses lie and look at all types of data to determine how we can help them achieve success.

b. Consider your learners as they begin the new school year.   How are they negotiating/establishing their own positions in the learning community?   How are you seeing them?  What “data” about them are you reading? and how are they sending it?
Teaching in a school with one eighth grade class of seventy students, provides an interesting dynamic the first few weeks of school.  The students, most of whom have attended school together for the last nine years, have a good idea of the academic abilities of their peers.  It is the eighth grade teaching team that is figuring out the students and their abilities in the classroom.
We make it a point to meet with the entire class the first day of school and we tell them that they all have a clean slate.  No matter what they did or did not do in previous years, it does not matter now.  They might not have been the most studious or well behaved individuals in the past, but they can start fresh this year.  We as a team like to do this because each year we always see one or two students who really take it to heart and become more focused and motivated with their studies.
In addition, during the eighth grade year, the students are split into two different math courses.  As the math teacher, I look at a lot of data to determine where they should be placed.  In addition to quantitative data, such as standardized test scores and previous math grades, I use qualitative data to determine if the student can accept the challenge of the high school Algebra I curriculum.  This qualitative data consists of conferences with prior math teachers and phone conferences with the students and their families before the start of school.  I can tell you it is surprise for these students to receive a phone call from their new math teacher before the school year starts.  I purposely do this though because I want to make sure they feel confident in their abilities to take on the challenge of the higher level math course.  In addition, I want them to know before the school year starts that I have confidence in their abilities and that I am available to help them through the class.  I think it helps to start the school year off with these conversations.  The connections I make before the first day of class is priceless and it allows the students to feel comfortable enough to ask me questions.
There are four sections of math in my school, two Algebra I sections and two Pre Algebra sections.  During the first week, the Pre Algebra students always make a statement that they feel stupid because they are not in the Algebra I section.  I think it surprises them a lot when I tell them that when I was in eighth grade, I was in Pre Algebra.  Their demeanor immediately changes from one of despair to hope.  I tell them that everyone’s academic abilities are different and some people may not be good at a specific subject.  In addition I make it a point to tell them that I did not get good in math or at least truly understand the subject until Pre Algebra.  Once they hear this fact, they seem to start to feel a little bit better about their math placement.  As a teacher, the last thing I want is for a group of students to feel below or dumber than their peers.  If I can make a relate my personal experiences to their experiences then maybe they will change their perception of the class and their abilities.
With all of my classes, I try to integrate technology as much as possible.  I have more flexibility with the Pre Algebra sections since the curriculum is middle school based and not high school based like the Algebra course.  It is important for me to show the students how they can use technology to better understand the content, but also practice their math skills.  I have a student this year that has already expressed his dislike for math and for school.  Some teachers might see this as a turnoff, but I see it as a challenge.  He did mention in his class survey that I have all the students complete,  that he loves Instagram.  I have decided that I will investigate possible uses of Instagram with math and try to design at least one or two lessons that he can take part in to possibly gain interest in the subject.  He also mentioned in his survey that he does feel like he is one of the lowest in his learning community.  As his teacher, I want to help him understand the content and improve his self esteem while using technology that he likes to use in his daily life.  
The class surveys allow me to get a better idea of the students as individuals and not just numbers from standardized test scores or grades.  Most of the questions I ask are not about academics at all, but rather their interests, hobbies, and how they spend most of their time outside of school.  It is more qualitative data that helps me better understand the students in my class.