November 3, 2012

Education: A 2020 Outlook

Filed under: Uncategorized — by kschreckengost @ 7:30 am

This week, I am about to complete an online graduate course that I enrolled in to enhance my skills as a private tutor and speech-language pathologist. The title of the course, “Building Online Collaborative Environments Online” by PLS, was created to help “classroom teachers harness the power of online technologies like blogs, podcasts, and wikis for student engagement and learning” (Performance Learning Systems, 2012).

As many of you are aware, I currently practice as a private SLP and a private tutor in Pennsylvania. I graduated with my M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology in 2002. I went on to work as a speech-language pathologist in a large public school district in Western Pennsylvania until 2004, when I celebrated the birth of my second child. It was at that time that I decided that staying at home with my children was where I wanted to be. I resigned from my position that year.

In 2007, it was time to decide whether or not I wanted to enroll my eldest son in Kindergarten in the public school system. I was torn. I was educated in the public school system and although I excelled in terms of academics, I couldn’t help but remember how much I felt that I lacked and how much I had to teach myself in order to compensate when I began college. I didn’t want that for my son.

I was also unhappy with the face of education when I left my teaching position in 2004. I knew first hand that many teachers were being overwhelmed with mandates and testing requirements that were not aimed at the best interests of the child. The amount of paperwork that I was required to complete in the area of Special Education left very little time for me to focus on the specialized needs of each child. I felt more like a worker on the production line, going through the same motions every day just to make quota, or in educational terms, meet standards. What happened to the ability to meet each student’s individual needs?

After many long hours of thought, my husband and I decided that homeschooling should be considered. But how was this to be handled? I researched and researched. Would I be making the right decision if I homeschooled? Homeschooling came with a stigma. It was labeled as odd and unordinary. I had little support from fellow educators.

So in the fall of 2007, I decided to try a blended approach. I enrolled my son in an online private academy. I liked the fact that each day had dedicated coursework to be completed, but at my own discretion and time. I would also have my son at home to teach in case I felt any of the areas were lacking. Unfortunately, they did end up lacking. I felt that for the price that I was paying, the curriculum was not sufficient. I was spending too much time compensating for the online curriculum’s weaknesses.

That same spring, as I completed my son’s Kindergarten year, I attended my first homeschooling conference held at the Pennsylvania Farm Show & Expo Center in Harrisburg, PA. It was there that my eyes were opened. I was not alone. There were HUNDREDS of families just like me taking the same plunge. I knew that even though I was not seasoned yet, I could homeschool. It would take a lot of preparation and work, but I could do it. And I did. And I still am-five years later, now with the addition of four of my other five children enrolled under the Private Tutor Law of Pennsylvania.

I’m sure that many of you are wondering, where am I going with this? How am I going to tie this into my title, “Education: A 2020 Outlook?” Well, I believe that I am experiencing one of the great shifts in modern education. My eldest son will graduate in the year 2020. He will be one of the many students who has been taught outside of the “traditional” physical classroom walls and he will have extensive knowledge of Web 2.0 technologies and beyond. Without the web and online coursework, I would be unable to help my children make the connections that they so easily have. The current web is now extremely interactive. It is not just read/write anymore. It is “collaborative” as the title to my course states. It brings people together with few limitations or boundaries. It helps us learn from others’ experiences and lets us share information for the greater knowledge of a group.

Web 2.0 technologies, such as Wikipedia, have shown us that knowledge can now be easily created by anyone and shared throughout the online world. Programs like Skype have allowed people to interact face to face regardless of where they are at. I know a few homeschoolers who have used Skype technology to communicate with other homeschoolers and teachers from across the globe. Other web technologies, such as blogs and RSS feeds, play a huge role in helping educators and homeschoolers find a myriad of online information quickly and easily. By the year 2020, I can only foresee web technologies playing a greater role in education. Aside from the current resurgence in the homeschooling movement, there are many current public school students who are involved in online public schools from home. They sign in each day and are monitored via web cams. There are also blended programs for accelerated students in which they participate in lectures in public school and then take online courses as extra electives. Web 2.0 technologies are critical in the interaction for these courses.

In my opinion, I believe that the classrooms of the future will continue to decrease physical and most likely, time barriers. In fact in 2020, I believe that the web will have advanced much further than the Web 2.0 technologies we have talked about today. It’s hard to image what these technologies may be, but one thing is for sure: change will occur. Like I said initially, change is inevitable and change is often uncomfortable, but change can not occur without learning. May we strive to see the benefits in change that will  make us stronger educators.


November 2, 2012

Web Applications for the Student

Filed under: Uncategorized — by kschreckengost @ 12:34 am
Tags: , ,

This week, I started looking at web applications that are available for the student. One I’d like to talk about today is called Zoho Notebook. I’m sure many of you are already familiar with this app since it has been around for awhile, but since it is new to me, I’d like to explain why I find it so promising. First, since Zoho is a web based app, there are no restrictions as to who can log into it based on operating systems. So if I’m working on my Mac at home and need to finish a page in my notebook later on my PC at work; I can do that-easily.

Zoho Notebook markets itself by saying “Create, Aggregate, Collaborate.” Basically, Zoho Notebook allows you to create and store various types of media (audio, text, photo, video, etc.). It also allows you to take that media and use it in a project. You can take info from various applications and put them into your Zoho Notebook. Another neat feature is that you can use read/write features to share any amount of content that you need to. If you want to share a whole page great, but if you just need to share a video file with someone or a photo, you can just do that too.

Although the above features are great, I can’t help but think of how this app could help many students-especially those in upper grades or at the collegiate level. Since technology has made it easy to store audio files, a student who doesn’t want to miss any important aspects of a class discussion or lecture can now record the material and upload it to Zoho Notebook. Say that, for example, a student is taking an anatomy course. On Zoho Notebook, they can create a page just for the course and add any relevant information that they need. If they are studying a unit on the muscles of the upper arm, they can add any recorded lecture from class, any photos of important muscles to remember (even with added arrows pointing to each muscle!), and key texts points that they need to remember. This is exciting for me and really useful for the kinesthetic learner. When I was in graduate school, I know I would have really appreciated an app like this. Hopefully, many of you can benefit from this neat app as well!

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