Chapters 7 & 9 – Images and Social Media

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Images are an extremely powerful way to convey a message.  I think it’s why the adage “A picture is worth a thousand words” is so enduring.

There are now a multitude of sites that now incorporate easy to find, high quality images.  The best known of these is Flickr.  Flickr is an online photo-sharing community that contains millions of photographs that cover a broad range of topics and interests.  Within Flickr, users can group, tag, share, and create presentations that can have incredible potential in the classroom.

The use of Flickr, and other sites like it, can extend across so many different subjects.  Having a strong visual can make conveying a new concept clearer and more meaningful for students.  Some students need that visual to really have a grasp of the material.  Using a photo-sharing website within my lessons could help a student understand the material.

With the option to tag and describe photos, it allows you can connect to a larger group of similar photos, allowing for a wider breadth of options.  Students can find and share photos that are meaningful to them, as well as find discussion points to share in class.  It also allows teachers to find classroom display ideas that can help them to create bulletin boards that help their students.  The ideas available to students and teachers are almost endless.

 
One of the most powerful things that can be done through Flickr is the idea of a virtual field trip. Due to geographical and economical constraints field trips are often unrealistic. While students are studying the Lewis and Clark expedition, they can be shown photos to enhance their understanding and help draw a better picture in the students mind.
 
Just as with all things connected, there are some risks.  The most obvious concern is appropriate content.  Because anyone with an internet connection and an email address can create a Flickr account, there are a great deal of inappropriate images on the site.  If you decide to use Flickr in the classroom, you need to be aware and set boundaries for your students.
 
Another powerful classroom tool is social media.  The textbook discusses the classroom potential of Ning and Facebook.  While I think that using social media in the classroom can be a unique way to build community and facilitate learning, sites like Facebook should be used with caution, if at all.  Because so many students are familiar with Facebook, it would seem to be a great option to use in the classroom, but it is too easy for students to get off track.  I think, for all the good that Facebook could provide, there are too many distractions for it to be a really viable tool.
 
Ning is a site that allows you to create your own social network, allowing you to easily upload videos, presentations, and articles.  This ability makes it a great resource for students.  Having a forum allows students to communicate with each other and with you as the teacher, allowing for greater collaboration.  It opens up a new way for students to have discussions, as well as providing a place for students to help each other with homework, as well as allow the teacher to chime in and make any necessary corrections.  Since the teacher can create the network, it limits the number of distractions, making it more beneficial tool in the classroom.
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Homework

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Homework has become a very conflicted idea in the teaching and learning process.  Some argue that homework is always beneficial, and we should always assign students homework to reinforce ideas.  Others argue that homework does more harm than good and we should just focus on in-class work.

My opinion sits somewhere in the middle of those.  In some instances, I think homework is a great thing and can really help students to practice and understand a new concept.  In other cases, I think homework isn’t as effective as it could be.

The first article I read, Fischer’s “Homework and the Gradual Release of Responsibility”, argues that homework can be beneficial if done in a strategic way.  The article states that homework can be used as part of a process they call the “gradual release of responsibility”.  They detail this process as, at the beginning of a lesson, the teacher assumes all the responsibility for performing a task.  As instruction progresses, the responsibility shifts from the teacher to the student and, ultimately, the student is responsible for performing the task.
 
The second article I read, Eren’s “Are we wasting our children’s time by giving them more homework?”, argues that homework is really only beneficial in math courses.  In other subjects, such as language arts or science, students were essentially equal whether they had been given homework or not.  It raises interesting questions.  Should we only being giving out math homework?  Is there another type of homework we could assign in other subjects that would be equally as successful?
 
Overall, I think as a teacher I will assign homework.  I think a certain amount of individual work is necessary, but I don’t think you need to drown kids in work, hoping that something sticks.  I think the Fischer article resonates most with me.  I think it is important that the homework you do assign has a purpose (and is purposefully planned) and adds to the learning.