Tuesday, December 7, 2010

How do you Reduce Stress?

With the holidays, finals, and inclement weather quickly approaching, many people are feeling stessed. How does one cope with these pausible stressors to avoid risks to his/her health? The YouTube video, How to Reduce Your Stress, provides many tips on what one kind do to handle the stressors in his/her life.

I also found an article with tips for college students who are experiencing stress. It is very important to identify when you are feeling stressed and to have an escape. At Upper Iowa University, we uniquely offer two courses every 8 weeks. Some students choose to take three courses in those 8-week terms. Whatever courseload students choose, it inevitably results in some kind of stress before and during finals week, which is next week.

Whether you are a student, parent, or full-time employee, how do you handle your stressors?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Experience in Second Life

Retrieved from Google Images
A few weeks ago I joined Second Life not knowing what kind of experience it would be. Since then, I have created an avatar and explored many places, chatted with people from Scotland, learned how to dance, and found many valuable resources that I could incorporate into the higher education courses I teach.

With all the new social medias available, many educators ask themselves, "How can I use this in my classroom?" or "Would this be appropriate for the students I teach?" Those were some of the same questions I had before joining Second Life. My background and experience is in special education. Currently, I teach courses to pre-services educators who want to be endorsed in special education. How can Second Life provide resources to the students I teach? I recently did a search on Second Life under the category of education and disability to see what I could find. I was pleasantly surprised at the resources available in this virtual world and how these places provided information for real world resources through URLs, blogs, contact information, etc. After I conducted a broad search on disabilities, I decided to search for information on specific disabilities such as autism, ADHD, multiple sclerosis, etc. Again, places I teleported to in Second Life provided accurate research, resources, and webpages on each specific disability.

I created a Landmark Card  listing and describing the locations in Second Life that pre-service educators could visit to learn more about disabilities. Some of these locations provide support and guidance for persons with disabilities and their families.

  • Assistive Speech Technology Research Labs - ASTR's mission is to explore the possibilities for people with disabilities through the research of speech technology. There are projects to view as well as a 3D Visual Scene on the balcony.
  • Virtual Halluncinations - The virtual hallucinations project seeks to educate people about the mental illness schizophrenia. By entering the UC Davis Simulation Center, you have the opportunity to experience how a person with schizophrenia feels.
  • Club Accessible and Accessible Builds - This club allows people with disabilities to dance and meet others with disabilites. It also provides accommodations.
  • MS Island Nederland - This island tries to have a positive influence on the well-being of people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). There are links to research about MS, meeting spaces, and a dance club inside an elephant's belly. This island also has many other activities for persons to participate in.
  • Virtual Ability - Their mission is to help people with disabilities to enter virtual worlds and provide a supporting environment.
  • Healthinfo Island - This island offers several resources for people with disabilities to chat with others who have similar disabilities.
  • CF University - Cystic Fibrosis University - This is a campus that has resource links to information about cystic fibrosis as well as a memorial fountain dedicated to those who have lost the battle to this disorder.
  • Austim Awareness Center - HealthVillage - New York - This center offers facts, web pages, myths, and the history behind autism. This center has teacher resources such as how to set up your classroom, termininology, and a plethora of other valuable information on autism.
  • GimpGirl Community - GimpGirl Community's mission is to bring women with disabilities together in the spirit of support, positivity and inclusivity.  This place provides statistics on women with disabilities, resources, housing, support, and art.
  • The Center for Positive Mental Health - A place for support and discussion of anxiety, depression, ADHD, and other mental health concerns, managed by a psychologist.
  • On With Life - Located in Ankeny, Iowa, On With Life provides intensive rehabilitation for persons with a Tramatic Brain Injury and/or stroke.
I would love hear your thoughts on Second Life. Do you think teachers could use locations created in Second Life as an educational tool?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Expert Advisor Help

As you know from a recent blog, I am an expert advisor in The Flatclass Project for a group that is investigating virtual communication. I check the students' wiki daily for changes they have made; however, there hasn't been much progress. I am new to this experience and would like a student to reply to one of my posts so I know they are at least acknowledging the fact that I am here to assist them. Needless to say, I am getting frustrating with the lack of response.

If anyone else is or ever has been an expert advisor for a project such as this, could you please give me some suggestions to possibly increase the communication between me and students in my group?

Retrieved from Google Images

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Waiting for Superman

I just began reading the participant guide to the film Waiting for Superman, a documentary written by Davis Guggenheim about the American public school system. The clip below gives some of Guggenheim's reasoning in writing this documentary:

In this participant guide, the author states, "Our public schools haven't improved markedly since the 1970s" (p. 15). This documentary is supposed to provide reasons why schools haven't improve since 1970. Guggenheim provides five stories of students and their families who have their names in a lottery to attend "the best schools". Why are we making the assumptions that those schools are the only ones with effective teachers? I think that effective teachers are everywhere. As a society we have come to an unbeknownist conclusion that depending on where the school is located determines the effectiveness of the teachers inside that building. Does that really make sense?

In a current Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll it showed that 77% of public school parents graded their neighborhood schools with As and Bs (p.13). The poll then goes on to ask, "How about the public schools in the nation as a whole?" Eighteen percent graded these schools with As and Bs (p. 14). Do these stats confuse anyone else?

Do schools need to make improvements? Yes. Are effective teachers only in private, higher socioeconomic schools? No. How many parents are going to be misled about where effective teachers teach? How many parents are going to wait for their child's name to be pulled from a lottery so their education can be saved?

What are your thoughts on effective teachers and school reform?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Experience as an Expert Advisor


Recently, I have had the opportunity to sign up to be an expert advisor for a Flat Classroom Project. So far, I have created my own ning and choose to be the expert advisor for a group of students who are exploring Virtual Communication. Today I was able to read the research, look at the links, and watch the videos students in this group have posted. I found it to be very interesting. I also saw myself wanting to read more about each topic of virtual communication. I made notes as I read such as: Could you link this to a resource? What are examples of teachers using virtual communication in their classrooms? Could the use of avatars meeting in a virtual world support your section?

 Once I read through the wiki, I found the students who were in charge of each section. I created a new post in the discussion tab for each group. I was able to offer articles, websites, and other suggestions to each group that will hopefully make their sections stronger.

To be honest, I was a little leery starting this project and getting involved as an expert advisor. After reading and posting suggestions, I really enjoyed it. I felt like I was contributing valuable information to the groups that would help them accomplish their goal for their sections. I am excited to see if they used any of my suggestions to make their wiki stronger.

I am interested to know your experience with The Flat Classroom Project if you have had one or your thoughts on the project. Do you think it will lead to move student engagement, motivation, and academic success?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Assistive Technology

No Child Left Behind has increased the time students with special needs are included into the general education classroom. Some general education teachers embrace this initiative whereas others fear this change. What do general education teachers need to know to effectively educate all students in their classrooms?

With the push for increased technology use, teachers can meet all their students' need by using multiple technologies. Many students with special needs have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that may specify assistive technologies that can benefit the student in and outside the classroom. Assistive technologies can be used for communication, manipulation, mobility, and learning depending on the child's needs.

Many teachers are exploring ways to use technologies such as iPods, iPads, and other software programs such as Kurzweil and Dragon Naturally Speaking to increase the amount to time students with special needs are included into the general education classroom. The more teachers become familiar with Web 2.0 tools and newer technologies, I believe the "fear" they once felt with having students with special needs in their classrooms will slowly disappear.

What are your thoughts and experiences with inclusion? How have you seen technology used to increase the participation of students with special needs into the general education classroom?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Are online tests student centered?

At the university I teach, we have a learning managment system that allows us to create online tests for the content we teach. I administered a multiple choice/short answer midterm using this online component. As an instructor I loved it! The multiple choice questions were instantly graded, but I had to manually grade the short answer questions. The system allowed me to conduct an item analysis to determine the most frequently missed questions and the response. I thought it was great. . .

When I asked students about the experience, they were not as thrilled as I was. Granted, the technology didn't necessarily cooperate that day we took the midterm as it kicked students out of the test. It did save their answers so nothing was lost; it was just a nuisance.The students didn't mind the multiple choice questions; however, the short answer questions didn't provide enough space for them to write. Some students preferred to have written everything out given a paper and pencil. I was shocked. I thought for sure this 'net generation' would prefer to take a computerized test which allowed them to read the questions from a screen and type (instead of hand write) their responses.

What is an instructor supposed to do? I felt I was meeting my students' needs, but in the end, I was only meeting some of their needs. I'm curious to know your thoughts/experiences. I look forward to hearing your thoughts regarding online testing. What the pros/cons? Does it meet students' needs or not?