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Conclusively

Overall I’m pretty happy with how this blogging went.  I got a little off track with the classics at time but I enjoyed exploring the wider territory.  I think I’ve determined that classics are still a great thing to teach but it would be awesome if we could implement technology into their teaching to make it more interesting.  I think I learned a lot by keeping this blog.  I really enjoyed a lot of the articles I read and I also enjoyed just being able to discuss my thoughts in response to the articles.  I’m really glad I did this project.  Google reader is a great tool to know how to use, and a blog is a great place to set down your thoughts and see what other people think of them.  I’m going to try to keep adding to this blog, I don’t know how successful I’ll be.  I’m fairly sure that I’m going to stray away from my topic and talk about whatever strikes my fancy.  I’m hoping to continue using my Google Reader acoount, but I don’t know how well that will go.

Technology Conference

I attended a Technology Conference at Grand Valley’s Pew Campus. Since I wasn’t able to attend the Bright Ideas Conference, I shall write about that.

The Keynote, given by Dr. Peter Doolittle, was quite a good introduction to the conference. The speaker had many things to say about how technology could be implemented in education. The most useful thing I gained from it was learning about the Hype Cycle. This is the path that hype for new technologies and their possibilities seem to take. It starts out having a huge spike due to large expectations and then falls into a “Trough of Disillusionment” when the limitations of the technology are discovered. The hype then increases again as we learn to use it and eventually plateaus at the level of the technology’s actual usefulness. I thought this was quite a good image. I think it is a good lesson not to get caught up too much in the inflated expectations and also not to give up just because of the “trough of disillusionment.” This speaker also brought up the potential for Massively Multiplayer Educational Gaming. I will come back to this point later.

A break-out session that I found interesting was titled “iPod + iTunes + iPodagogy: The iPodification of Education” also by Dr. Peter Doolittle. The information from this could be quite useful in my teaching career. I plan on being first a German teacher and second an English teacher, so my thoughts on implementing this technology are centered on the obvious potential for language uses. Podcasts can help students learn to hear and interpret language quite well. The more you listen to a language you are learning, the more skilled you become at understanding it when it is spoken to you. It would also be quite useful to have students create Podcasts in order to test their pronunciation and speaking skills. Overall I find Podcasts to be quite useful for language instruction.

The thing that most inspired me at the conference was the exhibition entitled “The Thoughtcrime Project: A Literary World within Second life” by Robert Rozema. He described all of the potential applications of the program Second Life for teaching literature. All of the possibilities with having meetings, classes, presentations and such all in this online program got me thinking about other applications of video games to teaching. I remembered the massively multiplayer possibilities mentioned before and thought of the potential application to language learning. If a Massively Multiplayer online Roleplaying Game (mmorpg) were created with the main point being on entertaining gamers while also teaching them new languages, could it possibly be successful. I began thinking about ways to implement this and so far haven’t come up with much. The only thing I have is that it could be an mmorpg similar to World of Warcraft or Everquest but where different regions use different real languages and so more experienced players must learn or pick up some of that language in order to be more successfully able to navigate these areas. I have not figured out how to encourage using those languages in player to player speech but everything else in those regions could be in those languages. I’ll have to try and refine this idea and see what comes of it. Overall I gained a lot from attending the conference.

Quotes in this entry are from the following article:

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/headline/features/4691912.html

This article is about To Kill a Mockingbird and the legitimacy of it’s inclusion in the literary canon. This entry may be meaningless for those of you who have not read the book, but there somewhat of a description of it in the article that could help. The author of the article asks these questions:

“So what’s its appeal? Why a fixture on school reading lists? And what’s its status in the canon of American literature? Is it really a book for grown-ups?”

These questions interested me and I eagerly read until finally reaching the author’s answers:

“I don’t find either Atticus or Scout particularly plausible. The black characters are long-suffering and large-hearted in a way that, today, comes across as condescending. Scout too often sounds like no child I ever met — too smart, too spunky.”

That isn’t his entire conclusion but it seemed to be most of it. I don’t believe that answers all of even most of the questions. It seems to me that the author wrote all about the book and led up to possible answers and ended up merely stating his distaste for the book. Despite that, this article brought to mind some interesting arguments about literature and learning.

Must the characters in literature really be believable? I say not at all. While the author of this article seems to the the unbelievability is a bad thing, I see it as quite the opposite. Scouts purity and intelligence seem to be as constants in an experiment. They are isolated factors that make way for the moral lesson. With a more realistic character the lessons of the book would not have been nearly as clear. I also find that in order to best make a point extremes must be used. “Larger than life” characters make for a much more obvious point. Exercising your mind is similar to physical exercise. In martial arts, you start out learning exaggerated motions so that your muscles can better learn. Once you have learned enough, your muscle memory is such that performing just the right amount of motion is easy. I find the two to be quite similar and that is why I believe literature characters can and sometime should be made unrealistic in order to better prove a point.

Quotes in this entry are from the following article:

http://worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=55090

First of all I must point out that this article was apparently written by Chuck Norris. The article is about teaching the bible in school. It starts out with some facts:

“Three hundred eighty-two public school districts have voted to implement a course on it.

Over 1,350 schools in 37 states can now offer it as a textbook. Approximately 190,000 students have already been taught from it as a course curriculum.”

We’re going to assume those are true, or at least close to the truth.

I don’t know if the Bible would be considered classic literature, but I think it’s at least close enough. There’s a lot to learn from the Bible. I’m a big fan of the proverbs in it, they teach a lot of good life lessons. But these are moral lessons. Are we teaching morals from the Bible or Literature from the Bible. I don’t see how it’s that great of a book to teach literature from. If it’s being used to teach morals then doesn’t that mean teachers can implement other lessons that are geared towards moral learning and life lessons. That would mean that, in my literature class, I could use a book to teach students how I think they should act to live a good life. This could be a good thing and it could be a bad thing, it depends completely on the teacher. I guess I would like to be able to teach this way, but I wouldn’t necessarily like to have my kids taught this way. Overall I think it’s best to keep the Bible out of public school curriculum. Each religion would have to have equal representation out of fairness. It’s the job of schools to teach students how to learn and to equip them with knowledge. I believe it is also their job to equip them to be successful in all parts of life. But I do not think it is their job to teach them things specific to one religion, that is unfair to those who are not of that religion. It seems to me that religion has only caused conflict. It’d be nice if people decided to be nice for each other rather than just because God wills it.

Quotes in this entry are from the following article:

http://www.advance.uconn.edu/2007/070416/07041607.htm

This article is about a teacher, Roger Travis, who uses video games to help teach classical literature. I find this to be quite a creative approach. He uses something many students are interested in, Halo, to help them understand something they may not be as interested in, Virgil’s epic poem, Aeneid. I think it’s a great idea to use video games to teach. Even if some students are not interested in video games, they will likely pay attention because they find the idea of video games in the classroom intriguing. I especially like how Travis describes the similarities between video games and ancient oral storytelling:

“In a paper on the subject, Travis argues that video games ‘bring back to life an essential part of the sort of storytelling to be found in the epic tradition of the Homeric bards.’”

“Both tales toss their readers – or players – into the middle of the story and demand a certain interaction from them.

For the ancient bard, the interactive aspect comes from the audience being immersed in the tale and anticipating what will happen next.

For the gamer, the interactivity includes not just joystick manipulation; the player can also elect to slip into the role of any of several characters or to play one section of the game versus another.”

I hope to see more video game implementation to education in the future. It’s important to capture the attention of students, video games usually do that quite well. Perhaps we will see a time when students have to be pulled away from their homework and told to go outside and get some fresh air.

 Quotes in this entry are from the following article:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2007-04-15-textbooks-congress_N.htm 

While perusing through my Google Reader, I encountered an article that caught my attention. It doesn’t relate as much to classics as it does to textbooks, but I thought it was important since anthologies often determine what classics are taught. The article is titled “Multibillion dollar textbook scandal reaches Congress.” It describes how President Bush launched the Reading First program in 2002, giving $1 billion a year to schools for improvements in early elementary reading. The article describes the current results of the program:

 

“Five years later, early evidence suggests that it may be helping. But investigators say a handful of advisers have railroaded schools into buying textbooks and other materials that they and associates developed.”

The article continues on describing how the problem is that they are using legislation for financial benefit. It’s main concern is that it is illegal to use such a program in such a way and the lawlessness must be stopped. My first concern upon reading this news had nothing to do with the finances or the law of it. If this select group of textbook producers is given so much exclusive business, they are also being given an equal amount of control over the reading education of children. Whatever this company decides is best to teach is what will be taught in the classrooms that benefit form the Reading First program. What right does this company have to decide this? The article concentrates so much on the lawlessness when it should also address the problem it presents for education. Programs like this must have fewer limitations so that teachers are freer to decide what they teach. The money should go toward teaching reading in the way that each region believes to be the best, not toward teaching in the way that the textbook company decides they want to make them teach.