Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The basics

There's a new website everyday that will change your life, and that's great, but I think we're forgetting about the basics.
If you don't know how to use the tab key correctly to line up data in a table, you're always going to struggle. 
I teach my students how to create their heading using flush left alignment and a flush right tab. If you don't know what I'm talking about, keep moving. This is not for you.
I'm a firm believer in everyone knowing how to use Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. It's this generation's looseleaf. If you can't use these programs easily, you will never be able to focus on your thoughts, you will always spend too much time trying to figure out how to present your thoughts.
While these tools have gotten infinitely easier to use, they still need some understanding. I try to make the lessons interesting-we bullet their favorite foods, use page numbers, and find and replace words through a long document. Not glamorous, but essential, and they will thank me someday when they're up at midnight trying to finish their term paper.
Using these programs should be effortless for our students because they will need to use them for the rest of their lives. Struggling to learn a musical instrument is necessary if you ever want it to sound like music. Our students need to learn how to play these programs well.

Monday, December 22, 2014

I'm just trying to keep up.

Sometimes it's hard to be a technology teacher.
Students don't know more about math than the math teacher. They certainly don't know more about science or history. That's not the case with technology. In some cases, they know more than us and we are assigned to teach them something.
What we mostly do is find out where they are, and try to keep up. We think we're so groovy because we're on Facebook. Well guess what? If you haven't noticed, they're not even on there anymore. They've moved onto Instagram and Snapchat. By the time we join those sites, they will leave us in the dust.
What we can do is address the bigger picture. Yes, they are all over the internet, but doing what? What kind of content are they adding? What type of footprint are they leaving behind? We need to use social media guidelines to enlighten them on future issues they aren't thinking about now.
What I think is being ignored is mastering basic office skills, even adults don't know how to set up tabs, and forget about editing a master slide.
Mostly we learn together, finding new things to explore everyday. I am constantly trying to keep my curriculum interesting and relevant, and teach them something they don't know already. That becomes more of a challenge everyday because I don't know it yet either.
Our job may be more fun but our curriculum has to change constantly, and keeping up is hard work.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

You have teaching methods, but what are your learning methods?

I graduated from art school a long time ago, so at one point I did know how to paint. I hadn't painted in quite a while though, so when I went to Paintnite and picked up a brush after such a long time, it stirred something in me. I want to paint again, but how do I go about it?
I bought a few supplies and got a bunch of books out of the library, but what really helped me was watching a few YouTube videos of painting techniques. It made me think about learning methods. I could have read about painting, I could look at other people's paintings, or even talked to other painters, but I found watching someone paint, and copy the process was the most effective.
It got me to thinking about my learning, and how best I acquire skills. I searched through multiple resources and tried each one. I took something from each, but I found the most effective for me and went with it.
Shouldn't students have the same freedom? Test out different methods and find the most effective? With multiple intelligences, you could go with your usual methods, but they might not always be best for every application.
This idea also worried me because it could someday make teachers obsolete. I only had one person in front of me teaching me to paint for a few sessions. Most of my learning was spent with books and online. Kids are already searching YouTube for help with their math homework, and Khan academy is covering more material everyday. I may not have a job soon. I should go work on my resume. Or maybe my paintings?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Making a list, checking it twice...

Just this week I found the file where I have all the addresses for my Christmas cards. I pull up this file every year and print it out on labels to remove yet another human element from my holiday wishes.
What makes me stop and think as I go over the names and addresses is all that has changed in one year. Who I sent a card to last year who's no longer with us. The address of a Mr. & Mrs. who no longer are married. It makes me sad to think of all that is different this year. These things usually happen one a time so they don't pile up, but going over the addresses once a year really brings it home in a dark way.
It certainly doesn't put me in a Christmas spirit. Oh well.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Don't do it Microsoft!

Microsoft just announced that it will discontinue clip art in it's products and I'm in mourning. Those trusty graphics have always been a simple and lovely way to brighten up any page, slide, or spreadsheet. Now you will be sent to Bing to search online for graphics. I have three big problems with this.

  1. When little people are using these programs at first, having a simple way to insert art is not as overwhelming as searching online for appropriate artwork. Young children need some guidelines, and releasing them into the big bad internet to find artwork will create a time-wasting experience for them.
  2. You're encouraging copyright infringement. Students will not concern themselves with where they got the artwork, and that's not the way to teach responsible digital citizenship. 
  3. When your internet is down, you're out of luck. My students don't always have internet access, through no fault of their own. Providing a feature and then taking it away is not cool-period.

Technology develops by providing more features, not less. I have to go now, I need to start hoarding all the clipart before it disappears forever.