Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Are human beings an impossible species to educate? Can we ever achieve a perfect paradigm of education? James Gee would argue that we can never achieve perfection, because human beings can act extremely stupidly. Our minds, thoughts and hearts are in a perpetual state of what you see below:

3626226624_4b3fba8d3a_zConflict. 

All of the inner turmoil swirling both inside & around us lead to limitations on how smart we can be and even more importantly how smartly we can actually solve problems. However, there is hope on the horizon and in my white paper linked HERE, I argue that although these conflicts swirl around and inside of us, the knowledge communities we have formed at the grassroots level provided hope & commitment towards using our smarts.

What do you think? Do you think Twitter chats and other grassroots, educator-led communities are leading us to become smarter problem solvers?

References

Full reference of James Gee’s (2013) book The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students Through Digital Learning contained in attachment

Sid. (2009). Businessmen fighting 2001. [Image file]. Retrieved from https://goo.gl/k42Xb4

Citelighter Review

*For further details about Citewriter, please click on the screencast I made HERE

The at-risk school program I currently coordinate curriculum for has had many students on the autism spectrum come through the doors. Having a family connection to this diagnosis has made me want to explore tools that would help address the unique needs and challenges that autism spectrum disorders (ASD) contain. ASDs are categorized as a group of development disorders. They primarily impact how individuals understand what they see and hear and how they make sense of the world (Alberta Education, 2004 p. 4). They can also tend to have difficulty with communication and social skills.

In many ways, the unique layout and small personal settings of our program lend themselves well to the success of students with autism in our program. Although our program may address their social needs, the academic needs tend to be just as great of a challenge for students as they were in a traditional classroom setting. ASD has common features, however “no two individuals share an identical profile” (Alberta Education, 2004 p. 2) Thus the accommodations can vary significantly. That being said there are several effective practices for students with ASD. These range from giving students multiple opportunities, tasks are structured with clear requirements, and organization is facilitated. One tool that could address the needs of ASD students in order to thrive academically is called Citelighter (www.citelighter.com).

Citelighter is a web-based platform that helps students with scholarly writing and research. Students can use the tool when they select articles and capture text, Citelighter will automatically create a citation and bibliography. They can follow tutorials and add notes to their research. It is not meant to completely replace active writing instruction, but can work as a beneficial tandem tool. As Christopher Wyatt writes, ”If we can use technology to help students during the prewriting process, technology might have pedagogical benefits for students with ASDs” (Wyatt, 2010 p. 13) Citelighter’s online presence matches with the goals for ASD students to have student-centered environment. It allows students to direct their own learning process (Bryant, 2011 p. 29). Citelighter can also be done in complete solitude, which according to Attwood (2007), can help to relax some with the ASD diagnosis as they can better relax, focus, and remove themselves from a high-trigger environment. On the contrary, Citelighter’s engaging visual format and mode of the platform can create a refuge for students to explore in-depth and at their own pace (Attwood, 2007). Citelighter could also be a tool that would smooth the transition to collaborative writing practices for all students (Wyatt, 2010 p. 36).

A significant feature of Citelighter that would also be helpful for the student-centralized environments that are crucial for success for students diagnosed with ASD is the Teacher Tools link. This link helps teachers track student progress by assessing a student’s use of sources, time, and what citations they have collected and if students are assigned a group project, a teacher can their participation and learning. These tools are crucial to help a student with ASD where “the opportunity to progress at a pace commensurate with their interests and ability level is ideal” (Bryant, 2011 p. 21). Using these services along with an application like Citelighter also can provide a framework for ASD students that struggle with appropriate social skills. Most students with ASD (including many I have worked with) know that they do not function like their peers. But using the organizational tools provided in Citelighter could help break down the walls “created by awkwardness and other unusual behaviors that can be a deterrent to effective social interaction” (Bryant, 2011 p. 28). When Citelighter can be employed with group projects and provide monitoring and organization formatted by the teacher, it can be particularly helpful to those with ASD to help them succeed in an academic task and working with their peers.

It can be extremely challenging for students with ASD and teachers who instruct them because of the range of abilities and challenge that are unique to each individual. The use of a tool such as Citelighter provides more options to personalize their learning and help facilitate personal interaction. Citelighter is definitely a tool that I will be incorporating my school program next school year.

References

Alberta Education. Special Programs Branch. Essential Components of Educational Programming for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Standards for Special Education. Edmonton, Alberta. June 2004.

Bryant, Lorna. The Academic and Social Implications of Virtual Learning Environments for Gifted High School Students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Little Rock, Arkansas: University of Arkansas Little Rock. December 2011.

Wyatt, Christopher. Online Pedagogy: Designing Writing Courses for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota. May 2010.

Embracing a bit of the Maker spirit

I consider myself tech-savvy & I also consider myself to be forward-thinking, but I will be completely honest in this posting that until I signed up for CEP 811 I had steered clear of the maker culture. It isn’t that I didn’t admire makers from afar, because I absolutely envied the spirit that I have seen from my students, colleagues, and conferences I have been to. I think a part of it was fear – you see, especially when it comes to technology, I have a tinker nature myself. I will spend more time than I have fiddling with editing photos, organizing the online layout of my curriculum, and preparing blog posts. I knew that the maker culture would suck me in…. and my first initial foray definitely did!

Using the web-based tool of Mozilla Popcorn was tricky at first. I watched and rewatched tutorials as well as remixed a couple from the site in order to see how subscribers made each component interact seamlessly. When I first started constructing my remix I thought I was just going to comment on what it meant to be a maker, but I started to think from the Dale Dougherty Ted Talk (http://www.ted.com/talks/dale_dougherty_we_are_makers.html) that the broader commentary of maker culture is the contrast of maker culture to the fears of technology.

There seems to be a pervading message in the media that technology is leading human beings into a toxic modern world. One in which we are doomed to live in isolation & die alone. However, all that I have read, seen, and experienced with the maker culture leads me to be believe that all is not lost. I also think that this class will give me a chance to activate the hidden maker within. Hopefully this message will also come across in the Mozilla Popcorn remix I made. I hope you enjoy it!

https://sgiddings.makes.org/popcorn/32yc

Remix Credits

Backert, Rachel. (2014 April 30). Google Glass: Shiny New Technology or the Root of All Evil? [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJ2D0UgxTxM

Coronet Instructional Films. (1949). Act Your Age. [Video File] Retrieved from https://archive.org/details/ActYourA1949 

Geek Group. (2014 Aug 30). TGG at the Grand Rapids Mini Maker Faire! [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwmKvm726ys

Koshy, Koshy. (2011). Yosemite National Park. [Online Image]. Retrieved from https://goo.gl/4Mls5C

Krebs, Denise. (2011 Nov. 20). Technology Wordle. [Online Image]. Retrieved from https://farm8.static.flickr.com/7029/6400358699_1d089846e0.jpg

The Orchestral Movement of 1932. Home. [OPSOUND.org].[Free Copyright].[Audio file]. Retrieved from http://ia902708.us.archive.org/19/items/HomeEp/05-Home.mp3