Discourse Development

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Over the summer I was fortunate enough to find a writing job with a company that creates and maintains an online presence for various medical practices. The company creates websites, blogs, advertisements, and various other technical aspects of building success online. We worked for plastic surgeons, dentists, orthopedists, and a long list of other specialists. One of our clients was even a cosmetic dentist for stars like Kanye West, the Kardashians, Miley Cyrus, and more.

I’m a part-time writer in the office, so most of my work consists of writing blog posts, press releases, social media posts, and creating landing pages. It was great experience for many reasons, but what I want to focus on is how this job relate’s to James Gee’s idea of a liberating discourse.

We have our primary discourses, which are the language and customs we develop first (from our homes). And anything after that is a secondary discourse–the way we learn to speak in school, at work, with certain friends, et cetera. The more discourses we develop, the less restricted we are. We grow more adaptable and more free from the restrictions of  a single discourse.

For example, I started this blog in a college class last semester. I learned how to use WordPress, how to act, interact, post, speak, and more, creating a new discourse on blogging. The office I worked at over the summer just so happened to use WordPress to create its websites and to edit them. My blogging discourse using this site helped me get the job.

In the job, I also developed more discourses. I learned how to communicate with my various coworkers (most of whom were older than me). I learned how to speak in a blog post for all different sorts of medical specialists, how to formulate my words in a press release, how to format and organize a landing page. One secondary discourse gave me the opportunity to find employment and to develop further discourses that may help me in the future.

Now, at the start of my junior year and my formal educational training, I can’t help but to relate my own experience to my future classroom. The more discourses a student can develop, they better off they will be in the world. Social interactions, employment opportunities, and more all depend on the discourses an individual possesses. As teachers, it is our job to facilitate the development of these discourses.

Read more about Gee’s ideas on discourses here.

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Blogging and Microblogging

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This past semester at SUNY Cortland, my ENG 307 class required me to create and manage a blog and a twitter account that both center around technology and education. Over the course of this class, I learned that these two accounts are great resources and networks for teachers, especially those that are teaching in the Digital Age. This semester-long assignment taught my classmates and I how to create our own posts, short and long, and how to respond to the posts of others to teach each other various educational values.

Personally, I enjoyed the blogging assignments given to us. It was a simple, fun, and effective way for us to engage each other in a hybrid course, and a great way to reach those outside of our school. Posts and tweets were always a great relief compared to longer and more complex assignments as well.

Blogging and tweeting are something I will likely return to in the future, as they are invaluable to educators. Twitter and sites like WordPress are full of teaching accounts that other teachers can follow and learn things from constantly. There are ideas constantly being exchanged and shared among the education and ELA community, and places like this on the internet allow for this.

Blogging and tweeting can be used in a multitude of ways, for students, teachers, and parents alike. I think any educator who wishes to truly expand his or her knowledge on how to better their students should create at least one account on a website like this. Whether you join to post or just to sit back and learn, blogging and microblogging are a great idea for any educator.

Out With the Old and In With the New

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Many ebook providers, like Amazon’s Kindle, have been expanding their demographics into classrooms all across America. The use of tablets and other electronic reading devices for education has been studied extensively for the past few years, and companies like Apple and Amazon have created various initiatives to introduce the devices into schools.

But the question many are still wondering is: will ebooks replace physical books?

It’s true that using tablets rather than textbooks may be more efficient in certain ways. Students would not have to lug around pounds upon pounds of heavy books in their bags, the school may save money, and the networks for the devices can be monitored and restricted, maintaining a safe learning environment.

Maybe students will even engage in the literature more. Tablets are cool, right?

But what about the detriments of introducing ebooks as a replacement? Schools cannot sell their textbooks back anymore, so they may lose money with a Kindle or Nook. Children may lose something in their education without the tactile advantage of physical pages, and if ever presented with a book later on, they may lack the knowledge necessary for comprehending it. Looking through multiple texts is also next to impossible on these devices; a task much simpler when done with textbooks.

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Many may turn this debate into a competition between the traditional and the progressive thinkers. Do we prefer the weight of a book in our hands and the texture of printed pages, or do we prefer to keep with the Digital Age and organize ourselves with technology?

The truly important factor in making this decision must be the welfare of the students, however. It must be decided which medium will most benefit their education, and which will most harm it. Our values and beliefs are being placed in the forefront when it is the future of students that we must consider.

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This also leads to the point that the reason companies like Amazon and Apple are pushing the integration of their tablets into classrooms is for profit. Schools would have to buy their products in bulk, as well as their applications and ebooks. School is primarily a market to companies like this, and this may alarm many educators and parents. Yet at the same time, textbook companies likely view schools in a similar way.

The truth is, the debate between ebooks and textbooks will likely last for quite a while. Everyone has something different to say about it, and there are still a large amount of studies that must be done to figure out what will most benefit students, teachers, and education as a whole. As of right now, all we can do is keep an open mind and await the final verdict.

TV Land

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Television is usually a technological medium kept at home rather than at school. Children and adults alike are typically glued to this device for hours every day, except for while they are supposed to be learning or working. But it is important to realize that TV can be a useful tool for teachers, especially those in ESL classrooms.

First, teachers planning to use some form of television for their students must view what they are showing beforehand, and must pick something appropriate for a classroom setting. They should make sure the links, DVDs, flash drive, or whatever other method they will use to find the program or movie are functional and compatible with the classroom technology.

Teachers, while showing any sort of TV, should always remain vigilant for any students using this assignment as a means of using a cell phone or taking a nap. Television also should not be used out of laziness, meaning students should be expected to do at least some small form of assignment after viewing what the teacher picks.

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Television will work in any classroom because it is entertaining, holding the interest of students who are familiar with this medium and keeping them amused. It can break the monotonous routine of books and worksheets, and will relax educators and pupils alike. Simultaneously, shows and movies can present the same old boring information in a new and interesting way.

Television can also improve listening skills, especially in ESL classrooms. ESL educators can also teach culture using news programs like CNN or BBC. Some programs can even help teach students how to speak English.

Another way TV can be used in the classroom is as a means of introducing other course work and as a clear visual representation. The visual aspect is greatly beneficial to ESL students, as is the simple English often used on television shows.

There is no denying how fun television can be outside of school, but it is using it inside of the classroom that will simultaneously educate and delight students. Here is an article that explains some of the many ways TV can be used in an ESL classroom. Countless programs and websites grant us access to infinite shows, movies, and programs from all over the world, and it would benefit both teacher and student to learn from the ever-expanding medium of television.

The Social Network

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It’s safe to say that nearly everyone in our culture has created a Facebook account at some point. It’s widely known that this social media site is one of the most used methods of communication, entertainment, and connectivity on the internet at the moment, and that it will likely stay that way for quite a while. So why shouldn’t educators utilize it?

To be fair, there are some issues in using Facebook in the classroom. One of the largest is privacy settings, and what they do or do not mean for young students. It can also be a bit of a distraction for some children and teenagers.

Yet at the same time, isn’t it safer to be using Facebook in a classroom rather than in an unsupervised environment?

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Universities can use this site for recruitment (as some already do). It is also a great way for students of all ages to connect with each other for projects or other types of collaborative processes. It’s a great place to organize events, share links or other medias, and/or collect information.

Simply put, the site is fun and easy to use. It even has a page dedicated to the use of Facebook in education that educators, students, and parents can “like” to get important information and updates. Students and even teachers are intimately familiar with the inner workings of this website, therefore it is much easier for both groups to learn its uses.

It’s true that Facebook may not always be the perfect classroom medium. But in an age where information and technology rule our lives, teachers must learn to utilize the features these things provide.

It’s just like Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg claimed: “The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”

Laptops in Schools

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The concept of giving every student in a classroom their own individual laptop may induce panic for many educators and parents. What if a child never learns to write because they only learn to type? What if a high schooler spends more time on Facebook than Biology? What if this device hinders a student’s education?

Personalized computers in schools do come with a fair amount of risk. But by holding off on introducing laptops until after the age a student learns to write and by placing restrictions on certain types of websites on the school’s network, schools can put those concerns to rest.

As for whether using laptops hurts or helps in a student’s learning experience, I would like to think it would greatly aid in education. Laptops with unlimited programs, applications, and connectivity not only entertain children, but provide them with outreach and opportunities that they could not otherwise receive in a classroom setting.

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The problem with most school systems today is that they are obsolete in their methods. The outdatedness of modern teaching methods creates a rift between the student and the information he or she is there to learn. A device like this, which provides far more individual attention, will solve this issue of disinterest by engaging children and young adults.

How else could students connect with a peer in, say, Japan? How else could they have this immeasurable amount of information presented to them in a way that is quick, entertaining, and relevant to how modern students interact with the world?

There are certainly risks that must be taken when deciding to introduce classroom laptops into a curriculum today. There are a multitude of other factors that must be taken into account, and certain preparations must be made.

But when it comes down to it, the risks are outweighed by the benefits.

Using Emerging Technologies in a Classroom Setting

Horizon Report Presentation

Although most people my age are intimately familiar with using PowerPoint, the use of narration and authorstream was new to me. Through use of the instruction given to me, I was able to complete the project with minimal issues and am happy with this final product. This presentation goes over NCM’s 2012 The Horizon Report (K-12), highlighting upcoming technologies and the reasons they must be utilized in a classroom setting.

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