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Going To School Is Awesome

Every day I ask myself why today’s youth dislike school. There is so much to learn, so many friends to make, and when you’re in school the years seem to go by too fast. I understand some kids may feel that when they go to school they are going to prison, just because they love freedom. Another reason is because either  they dislike their teacher;  because the teacher doesn’t present the material in ways that appeal best to their mind, or simply because they find it boring. Personally, have great memories from my high school years all the way to college. I thank myself each day for keeping my goal and finish my degree.

Besides the knowledge I gained and the good friends I made, education played a big role in developing my communication skills and improving my cultural understanding. From time to time I like to go back to my books and my notes; that’s when I realize how much I’ve learned. Seeing my grades and corrections from the professors it’s absolutely rewarding.The essay didn’t need to be perfect, but my efforts and eagerness to learn deserved the reward.FullSizeRender

These corrections made me comprehend and analyse written materials, a crucial skill in today’s modern jobs.By going to school kids and adults become socially literate (students learn to interact with people who are different from them) they learn to respect other people’s culture. Overall,  there are too many reasons to mention, but I can say my own reasons and goals were big enough to remind me and every person in my life  that going to school is just awesome.

I Did Not Choose Technology, Technology Chose Me

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“I want to learn those Microsoft applications, they seem so challenging and I like challenges” Those were my thoughts when I decided to go back to school and study Office Technology. I decided to go to the nearest school and speak to an advisor. She asked:

-“Why do you want to learn technology”?

-“All my friends are learning Word, Excel and PowerPoint, I heard is the next “big thing” I said.

The advisor advised they did not offer that program, but they had a very similar one: Information Technology. I sure did not know the big differences between the two, but I decided to give it a try. “I think you will love it” She said. I enrolled in the Information Technology program, expecting to learn nothing but Word, Excel and PowerPoint, and so I did, but also registered for required and challenging courses such as programming, Statistics and Operating Systems. Every new semester, I looked forward to see more female students in the classroom, but it never happened. Out of 20 students, only three were females, or sometimes it was just me. Regardless of my deceiving expectation I decided to go for it and continued my career. During my journey, while working on several contract projects, I still remember comments such as “I feel bad for this girl, working on a male dominated field” Then I realized why most women refused to enroll in anything but computer science. “I hate computers” Some of my girlfriends said in response to my comments about choosing technology. Most said, it’s a male dominated field, or it had too much coding and math they wouldn’t understand.

Today I still wonder if Information Technology will ever escape the negative geek stereotype. Unfortunately, despite the increased popularity of the “geek” culture, the so called nerd, and anti-social ‘geek’ still suffers from our culture’s negative label. This explains why women still shy away from careers in information technology. Somehow, when women think about computer science, they automatically link it with the nerdy look, wearing glasses and being anti-social. It’s the culture, not because math is hard. In addition, tech room environments can feel discriminatory for some women. This issue does not refer to women being unable to do the job, but to feel comfortable and earn respect from their colleagues. Women in particular have to demonstrate that we are educated and highly trained in the field. Working in the technology room can be quite challenging, but also rewarding and fun. If like me, you are a female working your way up in a male dominated career, keep this in mind in to survive in this environment:

-Be polite and communicate (respect others and network as much as you can).

-Know your industry (get informed and find opportunities to demonstrate women’s strengths).

-Learn from “the guys” (your male colleagues usually have plenty of experience, get involved).

-Promote diversity (show your friends that being the only female in your team is rewarding).

Some coworkers may never accept the idea of working with women, and will subtly or overtly make this obvious to you. With these individuals, the best response is to accomplish our job consistently well. There is no point in engaging in a debate with such a person, and no one can argue with results. You may never be able to win over your entire team, but you can represent our gender to the best of your abilities. The rewards for you and future generations of working women in technology will bear the fruit of our efforts.

Favorite Golden Lessons from Steve Jobs

“Your time is limited,29c3879 so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

“You know, we don’t grow most of the food we eat. We wear clothes other people make. We speak a language that other people developed. We use a mathematics that other people evolved… I mean, we’re constantly taking things. It’s a wonderful, ecstatic feeling to create something that puts it back in the pool of human experience and knowledge.”

“I would trade all of my technology for an afternoon with Socrates.”

“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”

Screencasting For Educators

After reviewing screencasting.com for the first time to work on a project, I realized this is a great tool for teachers to incorporate in the classroom with their students, and for students to learn about narrating their own videos and even PowerPoint presentations.
This tool can be more challenging than podcasting, because you will need your video to be created in a specific format in order to upload it, otherwise it will not display properly, there is also limitations in terms of video space, your video must be 100 MB otherwise you need to download another tool in order to upload your video to screencast.com. However, regardless of its minor challenges, this tool was extremely beneficial to me, not only allowed me to practice narration, but it also enhanced my creativity by thinking about several choices and new ideas to create a movie clip.

Screencasting.com facilitates teacher’s presentations and lesson plans by incorporating visuals into their lesson plans, or just showing a video or webpage of any particular subject of their choice. It was the first time I used Windows Movie Maker to create a video, and I feel it was somewhat challenging because of the microphone sound, the quality was quite low and it was too much background noise. Overall, screencasting.com gives us the opportunity to showcase our ideas, it was a great experience for me because I consider myself a visual learner, and these kind of tools not only enhance student’s visual analytical skills, but they helps educators by facilitating and adjusting lesson strategies according to the student’s needs either visually or orally.

Racism In Public Schools

While browsing for educational articles online, I was not surprised to find plenty information on the web about racism in public schools. Therefore, I decided to write about racism, not because I want to focus on my personal school experiences, but because I feel this is one of the most sensitive topics and a never-ending issue we still face in the education system. As I typed, one question crossed my mind: When and how can racism stop in public schools?

Last year on April 17th, Huffpost.com published an article about a white teacher calling a black student “monkey.” The 12 year-old daughter called her mother to describe her teacher’s attempt to stop her while the publication was taking place. The kid said “She told me; my teacher called me and asked me if I was a monkey.” She was humiliated in front of other students. Previously, another post from January 16th stated that a ‘White Privilege” lesson in Delavan-Darien High School was developed to teach “white-guilt” for the way in which it was defined in the student’s handouts.

The furious parent informed that it was defined as “A set of advantages that are believed to be enjoyed by white people beyond those commonly experienced by non-white people in the same social, political, and economic spaces (nation, community, workplace, income, etc.). Theorists differentiate it from racism or prejudice because, they say, a person who may benefit from white privilege is not necessarily racist or prejudiced and may be unaware of having any privileges reserved only for whites” The parent defined the student’s assignment as “indoctrination” or that teachers were implanting a doctrine into students to make them more likely to act in accordance with it.

Moreover, we all know that for a very long time, public schools had been segregated by race and socio-economics. A lot has been written about Latinos and African-Americans were mostly getting a poorer education driven by low expectations. According to the article “Confronting the Racism of Low Expectations” by Julie Landsman, having low expectations from students can be considered one form of racism in public schools. Teacher’s expectations from minorities may not be as high as what they would expect from white students, probably because they assume white students are not only fluent in the English language but they are smarter. In addition, some teachers might argue that the education system is facing many gaps such as achievement gaps or school readiness gaps; however, I believe that the main gap faced today in education is the cultural gap. In my opinion, states such as New York City and California must emphasize on cultural diversity when thinking about new inclusion strategies in the classroom.

The hopeful thing about these situations is that since school systems are man-made, we can still change it and make it work. Racism in general, not only affects public schools, but it affects society. These solutions can start in education, and eventually, we can see a change in the world. If minorities don’t speak the language correctly, does not mean they don’t understand the lesson or that they have a learning disability. What if the lesson was explained in their own language? I think that would make a huge difference.

Ten years passed after I decided to go back to school, do my associates, and with it, algebra. I was unable to understand equations when explained by the professor, maybe because last time I saw algebra was in high school back in my home country. I couldn’t understand it, and decided to study equations in Spanish with a friend. Not only I remembered how to do it, but I passed the class with A. I was able to use a different learning style and succeeded in class.

I also think teacher’s perception of racism is important. When and how can teachers tell if racism exists? And if they do, will they speak about it? Megan Boler stated in her article The Ethnics of Affirmative Action Pedagogy that all speech is not free. Social classes, power, race, and power inequity ensure that all voices do not carry the same weight. I understand there is no easy solution for this, and that teachers have a lot on their plate, but the more we promote culture in the classroom, the more confident students will feel. Students see teachers as role models, and if they sense they are being stereotyped, or that teachers are not making them feel capable, they will fail. From a candidate teacher’s perspective, I think in order to control racism in public schools we must understand culture. By understanding culture we can understand students, and once we understand students we can create, individualize, and enhance their lessons to get positive outcomes.

Technology is NOT andragogy or pedagogy

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At times, I like to look up articles related to educational technology, in order to stay current with my field. I attained my MSEd almost two years ago, May 27 2014 to be exact. As technology grows extremely fast, I already feel somewhat outdated but aware about new information out there related to technology resources I would need to keep up with. Occasionally, I read about teacher’s greatest fear: Being replaced with technology. Reading such distorted information can be very entertaining. Marshall McLuhan once said: “we are so embedded in technology we can hardly see it” and these teachers still seem to not realize that we are using technology the minute we open our eyes. The truth is, our society can no longer function without technology, and some technologies have become necessities, in fact, we only notice technology with it breaks because we cannot use it. In today’s classrooms, we still have teachers who resist learning and integrating these technologies because they feel that using the computer room will only cause distraction.

Teachers need to understand that technology is not pedagogy, or better yet, andragogy. Andragogy unlike pedagogy refers to adult learning, teaching adults how to use technology effectively. Educational technology is using technology as a tool and uses these tools and resources in the classroom regardless of the lesson content area. Educational technology is helping teachers with tutorials, engaging classroom techniques, and collaborative tools. However, most teachers don’t care about these tools, they feel they do not need to learn these computer resources in order to teach students to read, write, or solve math problems. The truth is that they shouldn’t. Effective teaching does not mean teachers have to learn the latest Apple or Android apps, learn coding or HTML, or build websites. Good teaching means inspiring students to actively engage in their own learning, researching and analyzing information based on their own experiences.

Good teaching is creating a fun, learning environment to ensure students retain what they have learn for a lifetime. Technology has changed the way we teach and the way we learn, however, basic teaching rules have not changed. Today, good teachers still have to perform the same old tasks: collaborate, communicate research and share resources, manage behavior and effectively deliver content. The only difference is we now have the tools to speed up the process and improve effectiveness. Teachers will always be teachers; machines can never teach students how to be good digital citizens, only humans can, so let’s focus on using these tools to create better lesson plans, and differentiated instruction so that we can build creative and persistent learners in the digital age.

Plato the Meno-Can Virtue be Taught?

Before reading Plato’s Meno dialogue, I never thought of asking myself whether virtue can be learned or taught. I find this to be one of the most extraordinary yet controversial conversations of all times. In this article Plato provided examples through the voice of character Socrates, concluding that virtue cannot be taught and is a talent given by the Gods. The problem I see in this question is that for virtue to be taught, it would require a teacher and a student, but how can a teacher teach virtue? Instead, I think virtue can just be learned through life experiences and this only requires the student, not a teacher, therefore I think that virtue can just be learned, not taught. A teacher cannot prepare a lesson called “Virtue 101” but students can pick up information from their surroundings, backgrounds, and life experiences and learn how to be virtuous.

According to Plato, virtue cannot be learned. He claimed that virtue is acquired from the Gods. To some extent, I guess this can be true. Some people are born with many virtuous capacities such as compassion, loyalty, generosity and more. This does not mean that it cannot be learned. People are not born knowing the meaning of these virtues; instead, they learn it through experiences. At birth, we do not know what’s right or wrong, but throughout our life journey we may experience dishonesty from a loved one, then we may feel guilt or shame due to the other person’s betrayal, and that’s when we learn this is not right. Loyalty is another example that virtue is learned rather than innate. Loyalty consists on dedication to a person or place. When we are born, we are dedicated to our mothers because we rely on our mothers for survival; however, this does not mean loyalty is innate. Babies develop loyalty because of the time spent with their mothers and because mothers provide nurturing.

In conclusion, I think virtue can be learned, evolved or innate but cannot be taught. We evolve when we find out whether what we or others have done benefits us. We have innate knowledge of what is good or bad when we confront a situation and we follow our hearts to make a decision.  What if someone wants to be taught to be virtuous for the reason that he has not being able to experience virtue? I think maybe this person can be taught how to act, in order to develop skills or build experiences in order to be virtuous. In summary, virtue is knowledge of what is right or wrong and the capability to distinguish right from wrong ensuring the act leans towards what is right.

Virtue cannot be taught but we can encourage people to seek virtue. In order to encourage someone to seek virtue, they must be taught to act right, and to acknowledge separating those acts from negative acts. I think this is the only way that we can persuade someone to seek virtue. If Plato would have worded the question differently, it may have given him a different answer. Instead of asking whether virtue can be taught, he should have done it better by asking: Can virtue be learned?

What Is Good Teaching?

After completing my bachelor’s degree in Information Systems, and having the opportunity to meet many professors in different areas of technology, I realized it was just one of them who made an impact in my career. For some reason, I felt a special connection with my Systems Analysis and Designs professor. As soon as he introduced himself to the class and told his story, I said to myself: “If he is able to do this, so can I!”

Although it was his first year teaching at a university, he was able to connect with the students and teach us he was equal to all of us, but had to work hard to accomplish his goals. He tended to offer one-on-one meetings to the class, in order to ensure we grasped the main concept of the lessons and final project. During weekends, he joined us in the lab to assist with group projects and always made himself available providing feedback and answering questions and concerns. In short, he established a one of a kind relationship with us, he helped the students in the class feel comfortable and capable to accomplish the course’s goals, which ultimately led to the class’s success. His subliminal goal for every class was to make students understand the point of the lesson or topic, rather than memorizing verbatim the information; to associate our experiences and share with the class.  That’s why he took extra time to devote it to those that seek for the fundamentals to build understanding. Then it was up to us to dig deeper based on our own passion for a given topic.

 

For that reason, I believe good teaching starts with building a good relationship with our students. I think it is extremely important to know students at different levels not only academically but socially and personally. However, I don’t intend to say that the content knowledge of a teacher is not important, but as candidate teachers, if we don’t start by knowing the students and learn to establish rapport we will not get anywhere. As a student, I value a teacher who has the ability to speak to me about life outside of school. While trying to accomplish our master’s degree, most of us have a full-time job with many responsibilities, such as family and debts but are still trying to earn a degree in order to open doors to new opportunities and have better quality of life. Summarily, all it takes is to say:  “How was your weekend?” to help students feel relaxed and engaged during class.  

In my opinion, good teaching is a quality that a teacher possesses, therefore, my definition of good teaching does not apply to all teachers for the reason that not all teachers have the ability to establish a personal or social relationship with their students. Based on my experiences, some teachers focus more on textbooks, assessments and curriculum achievement rather than understanding how the student operates and how to create an impact using specific words and techniques in order to reach students. All teachers are capable to practice good teaching. We can attempt to know students better to find creative ways to customize the curriculum according to their needs. Making students feel comfortable, not afraid to ask questions, enforcing the classroom rules positively, using appropriate language, and individualizing instruction are just some of the things I believe can be defined as good teaching.

In addition, positive words are powerful when it comes to impacting student’s performance. Telling the student directly that they have the ability to do well, monitoring ourselves to ensure we are creating equitable discussions to allow all students participate, not only the high-achieving students, but also the students who have a pattern of not performing well will encourage their success.  Overall, I think a good relationship with our students is a requirement for teaching and learning. It can have a dramatic impact on the student’s academic performance and can help teachers design better curriculum and achieve specific and desired results.

 

Fixing “bad” Schools

Regardless of locations, poor communities, and/or spoken languages, there should not be a reason for student’s academic failure, nor the ability to obtain a first-rate education. In my opinion, after reading David L Kirp’s article The Secret to Fixing Bad Schools I agree with his position about turning ‘bad’ schools into great schools. I strongly believe there is hope for traditional schools labeled as bad or broken. Although chatter schools are a great alternative for children who need to concentrate in a particular vocation or interest, they are not the only solution.

I suppose the author used Union City as an example in view of the fact that Union City’s current third graders all the way through high school student’s achievement scores have changed, and are now close to the statewide average when in past, Union City schools were so discreditable that state officials almost seized to control them. The author states that public schools in poor communities such as Union City often operated as factory for failure for the reason that three quarter of the students are Spanish speakers and one quarter undocumented.

In 2011, Union City achieved a high school graduation rate of 89.5 percent, 10 percent higher than the national average, what is more, last year, 75 percent of Union City graduates enrolled in college, and top students won scholarships. Given those statistics, Union City proved that all children have the same right to an efficient free-public education that prepares the students to meet the state’s academic standards. Because Union City committed to prepare high school children to graduate, enroll in college, and have the capability to earn scholarships, the state demonstrated that there is hope for “bad” schools by setting and implementing strategic goals with their students.

Union City teacher Susana Rojas cited that her goal was to use the head and the heart, cognitive and non-cognitive, thinking and feeling, and do for the kids what she would do for her own children, because if both concepts are combined, not only the child will have the helping hand and the role model, but they will take home the knowledge and the skills needed to be successful. Teachers and parents are the most influential people during early childhood through adolescence as well as culture. Teachers have the power to change children’s development because without good teaching and mentoring, kids would not develop most skills and understanding. Every child’s learning pace is different; therefore teachers need to implement strategies and a variety of learning programs and techniques to assess children’s educational development according to their needs and based on demographics.

Alina Bossbaly, another Union City teacher states that building ethics, character, and getting students to think by solving math problems and writing journals is essential in her classroom. She teaches the kids about helping the community and being part of it. Union City’s schools success was not an easy job. Administrators formulated long-term goals, from pre-school to high-school, developed necessary and customized programs to help students according to their needs which evidently made a huge difference.  Schools should not be categorized as “bad” schools, I think the school administration is responsible for being labeled as bad, and it is the school leader’s responsibility to make that change. Schools should do whatever is in their hands to provide communities the best possible education.

Because I believe teachers respond different to children’s linguistic and cultural background, because of cultural expectations in the school, it may also be difficult for the teacher to address the developmental needs of each child; therefore, teachers should be sensitive when it comes to students’ background, community or culture, I think that working with the parents in order to get informed about the child’s background can be a great idea. Union City schools developed early-childhood learning programs for children to learn to speak English and teachers urged to work together in order to make that change.

As I have shown, academic progress, student’s well-being, and success are the end product of effective schooling.  Urban schools deserve the same education, help, and resources as the rest of the schools nationwide. Although in the past Union City schools were unable to afford these resources, they worked extremely hard to earn them. It was the result of all the efforts from professionals, administrators, teachers and parents in need of a great school system, and hoping to give their kids high-quality education.

Closing schools is not the solution; the secret to fixing bad schools relies on creativity, dedication, hard work, and engagement from students, school leaders, and parent’s support, all with a long-term goal and a clear vision of what we want for our children’s future. It is team work from everyone who cares about the community and children’s lives.

The NewYork Times Article: