EDCI 506 Module 2 Blog

February 3rd, 2013

Why is public education essential to democracy?

It was unheard of prior to the founding of America. The idea of a free public education for every student. It was a radical, crazy idea, much like the idea of forming a new nation. But in building a nation, our forefathers started realizing that forming schools were a necessity. As some have stated is in school that children “become aware of something larger than themselves.” According to Thomas Jefferson the survival of democracy depended on education. People needed to be taught how to read, write, and comprehend so that they could make informed decisions and therefore change the course of the young nation.

In 1778, Thomas Jefferson pushed for three years of public schooling for children to teach them the democratic basics. He wanted the United States to become a meritocracy where it did not matter what social class you were from, you could be the poorest farmer’s son and one day be president.

People argued that for what purpose would farmers or blacksmiths go to school. It was these people that America was founded for, for not just the most successful or wealthy, but for the common man. For the common man to be successful he needed to be educated and that is why Thomas Jefferson made such a push for it. To Thomas Jefferson, and later to Horace Mann it did not matter the family you had been born into, it mattered what you were capable of and how you would learn. Thomas Jefferson’s feelings about public education and democracy were in sync with the American ideals of democracy and a people that were created equal.

With public education America was able to teach a certain set of ideas to students giving them a foundation for being able to survive as responsible American citizens.

IDNT Blog #2

January 28th, 2013


I am a social studies endorsement candidate so I love my content. I want my students to enjoy the content but I also realize that it is my job to teach them other things as well. In reviewing the readings this week as well as the article I saw a major emphasis on problem solving and creating, things that I do not always associate with my content area. But I also saw a emphasis on interdisciplinary learning which I think can be extremely valuable in a social studies classroom. Greg Toppo writes, “While kids may enjoy working together on projects, for instance, the amount of knowledge they get often ends up being shallow. Furthermore, he says, research shows that many teachers find it difficult to actually teach children to think creatively or collaborate. In the end, they rarely get better at the very skills that P21 advocates”(Toppo, 2009). So is the answer to teach content or 21st century skills? Here are my thoughts regarding the websites.

Points of View

Each website that we encountered this week had a slightly different view. The website on the 21st century pedagogy as well as the site on the Framework for the 21st century skills focused on a very kinesthetic, problem solving type of learning. Whereas the common core website really wanted to make sure all of the areas of the curriculum were covered. The 21st century skills hold to the point of view that students must be able to compete in the global market for jobs and that with practical and creating knowledge they will be able to do that. On the other hand the common core takes a much more classical view of education in realizing that interdisciplinary studies are necessary for students to see the whole picture. The 21st century does maintain that interdisciplinary studies are important but probably not as much so as the core curriculum site does.

My Subject Area: Social Studies

As a social studies content area teacher I had difficulties pointing out my subject area on a few of the websites, especially the one on the framework for 21st century learning. It would not be as difficult to insert it into the pedagogy for 21st century learning, but at the same time the 21st century learning tends to be more focused on problem solving, creating knowledge, etc. For Social Studies to hold its ground in the 21st century pedagogy social studies teachers must make social studies accessible to our students by giving them real world examples and parallels. It is not only important for us to teach history and government but to prepare and give our students the necessary tools to become well-informed citizens. Some of the areas of the 21st century pedagogy are media literacy, team skills, and interdisciplinary studies; it is in these categories that social studies classes can take a stand and help prepare students with these skills.

How can I teach my subject better?

The core curriculum website was probably the one that I was the most impressed with since I am partial to a very interdisciplinary method of teaching. I also liked their focus on content since as a social studies endorsement candidate I have so much content that I must get across. This website helped with making the content more accessible by relating it to other subjects. The 21st century pedagogy website challenged me to think of skills that my students will need to learn to be successful citizens. By coming up with a skill set and teaching it to my students that will create a schema by which they can learn my content and apply it to their lives. Finally, the 21st century framework website makes emphasis on the learning environment which challenges me as an educator to make sure that the environment in which my students are learning is not distracting but conducive to learning and problem solving.


In my opinion the core curriculum and the 21st century skills must go hand in hand, especially because I am a social studies teacher. I want to make sure that my students know content, but I also want to make sure they can apply that content and that they are not just learning it for rote memorization’s sake. Through effective use of current technologies students in my class will use project based learning and team skills to work through the content that will shape their views as citizens.

Toppo, G. (2009, March 05). What to learn: ‘core knowledge’ or ’21st-century skills’?. . Retrieved from http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/education/2009-03-04-core-knowledge_N.htm

EDCI 506 Module 1 Blog

January 27th, 2013

In reviewing the various standards and certifications for teachers it has become apparent to me that it seems like there is an unlimited amount of resources for teacher professional development. I do not want my education to end when I walk across the stage to receive my Master’s degree. As a teacher, education must be ongoing; it must be a lifelong goal and aspiration. Learning must be something that as educators we instill a desire for in our students, but it needs to be something we desire for ourselves. To be a good teacher, we must first be a good student. Pursuing a variety of professional development courses will aid us in becoming better educators.

My first goal beyond getting a job would be to become eligible for the National board. I think that this would affirm me as a good teacher, but I also think that being a part of the National Board would provide networking and further educational opportunities. I do not want to just be an average teacher, and I think that becoming a member of the National Board would help me in accomplishing that goal.

I also would like to attend a variety of different workshops as are outlined on the National Social Studies website. One that is of great interest to me is the one offered through the Library of Congress on using Primary Sources. I actually had a friend who took this course last summer and had incredible reviews about the content and the methods by which the course were taught. This course would help me in using different documents and sources to make social studies more accessible for my students.

Finally something that I would like to accomplish during my first five to ten years of teaching is to start pursuing my Ed.D. or Ph.D. in Social Studies Curriculum and Instruction from the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. This would further help me become an excellent teacher in the area of Social Studies as well as key part of any social studies department. I do not want to settle for just being mediocre in the classroom, I want to be challenged as well as challenge my students. With the INTASC standards in mind I want to make sure I am not just doing the bare minimum but making sure that I am creating the best environment possible for my students to learn in.

IDNT 501 Blog #1

January 21st, 2013

Over the past two decades technology has made huge leaps forward and teachers have had to incorporate more and more into their classrooms. It is necessary for us as future educators to learn how to use these technology so that not only are we prepared but so that we can prepare our students to succeed. The matrix explains in great detail how to engage students at different levels of technology and breaks down not only different teaching pedagogies but how different technologies allow students to interact with the technology and each other. By using technology in the classroom students are given the tools necessary to complete assignments and are given a boost in furthering their education beyond one’s classroom.

Throughout my two practicums last semester I saw a variety of technologies in use in the classroom. The teachers wanted to make sure that their students were capable of using laptop computers and one of the teachers I was under used an ELMO often as well a smart board. With a huge emphasis on the Content Literacy Continuum teachers in Culpeper County have to use a variety of technologies to display the various CLC components.

The example of a technology that made me raise an eyebrow was the Animals at Riskpodcast. I think more so than the technology itself I was confused about the content of the podcast as being associated with a social studies classroom. I do think podcasts would be a good idea, but I also think that it could be difficult to record podcasts inside of a classroom due to the nature of recording devices, etc. As educators we cannot assume that our students have access to the technology they would need to perform this assignment at home so I think it would not be the most ideal use of technology in a social studies classroom.

The technology example that I was impressed with was the Dollars for Darfur example. I liked this example for a couple of reasons as a social studies endorsement candidate. One of the main reasons that I liked this example was that the teacher took the holocaust and gave a modern day example to her students. Therefore she was making social studies applicable. I think that oftentimes students get bored of history because they do not see the practical application of it, but this teacher made sure that her students had a tangible real world example to work with. As social studies educators we need to not only teach students history, government, and geography but we are training our students to be citizens and survive as adults. Being a good citizen and productive member of society was the main reason that I thought that this use of technology in the classroom was the most appealing.

EDCI 506 Blog #1-Orientation Blog

January 20th, 2013

This was my first time viewing this keynote speech by Dalton Sherman. I really enjoyed viewing the video because I think it heightened my excitement for this semester as well reminded me of why I am studying what I am studying. This video clears away the layers of apathy that I think some teachers gain after being in the classroom for sometime and gets to the heart of why so many people are called to and pursue a career in teaching. I want to go into my future classroom believing that I can really make a difference, believing that my students will succeed, and believing that I can help them be successful. Teaching is not for the faint of heart and I think oftentimes teaching gets underrated or comments like “oh you’re a teacher,” when in reality teaching should be celebrated and teachers should remember that they play an extremely important role in the training up the next generation of leaders in every field. I look forward to equipping my students to go beyond the classroom and pursue their interests, to help them achieve what they want to achieve. I believe in my students!

You need both: Formative and Summative Assessments

December 9th, 2012

As my first semester in graduate school comes to a close people have been asking me how things have gone this semester. When asked this question I feel that it is an appropriate time to share some of my knowledge with them. I tell them that throughout the semester I have written many reflections, filled out exit slips, and shown in a variety of ways to my professors that I understand the material as it forms in my mind. These are all examples of formative assessments. Formative assessments help the teacher know how a student is engaging with the material before and during the instructional period.

Upon sharing about grad school I also often mention that as the semester comes to a close it is a time to put all of my knowledge into practice for a variety of summative assessments. Summative assessments take the sum of all knowledge in a given unit or class and gauge the student’s overall understanding and practice of the information. Both formative and summative assessments should be used in any class(no matter the content area) to give the educator data on how the student is comprehending the material.

Formative assessments also help teachers with planning and differentiating the material (Woolfolk, 2010. p. 549). As I prepare to have my own social studies classroom in a couple of years I will use formative assessments to understand what level my students are on at the beginning of the year. Through using pre-tests and an inventory of prior knowledge I will be able to have a clearer picture of what I need to teach. Formative assessments will also be important as I instruct (not just beforehand) because I want to be able to know on a daily basis what my students are and are not learning. Through use of exit slips, homework assignments, and to improve literacy, writing breaks, I will use formative assessments every single day in the classroom. Especially with so much social studies content specific vocabulary I need to be prepared to constantly be checking on my students’ comprehension.

In any classroom summative assessment is also a key component of instructional time. Summative assessments are not only for the teacher’s benefit, but the students as well since it provides a “summary of accomplishment”(Woolfolk, 2010. p. 549). For social studies, my students will have an SOL test at the end of the year that will serve as a final summative assessment, but I would also like to use Unit tests, creative interactive projects, and group presentations as forms of summative assessments throughout the year. As we move into the new professional guidelines for teachers in Virginia, summative assessments are going to play even more of a major role due to standard seven and student progress. With standard seven in mind, using formative assessments often will aid me in helping my students prepare more effectively for summative assessments.

I am excited to be finished with my first semester of grad school and as I share about it with those around me I hope that I will continue to process and remember all of the valuable things that I have learned, not only about assessments but lesson planning, students’ learning styles, and classroom management.

Woolfolk, A. (2010). Educational psychology. (12 ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Motivation and Ambiguous Constructivism

November 19th, 2012

Task 1. Maslow’s Hierarchy and Educational Motivation

My motivation for education is varied. Growing up as a homeschooled student throughout elementary, middle, and high school I was given a lot of freedom in regards to my education. If I found a certain area of study especially interesting I was able to pursue it at my leisure. This created in me a desire for knowledge unlike many of my peers. It developed a deep sense of life-long learning. I would match this with Maslow’s need of intellectual achievement.

At times in my life one of my motivations for education has been a desire to make my parents and grandparents proud. I am not the first in my family to attend a four year University, so there was almost an expectation for me at times that that is what I would do. Thankfully they did not put pressure on me, but I definitely put pressure on myself. This motivation falls under the lower level need of belonging.

Another motive that I have had for education was recognition, or making a name for myself. When my dad named me he gave me the name “Jamie Frances” and as a baby he started calling me “Miss Freedom,”(Frances means freedom) but he took Jamie to mean as “needing a title.” I hate to admit that that is something I fall prey to in education, but I know that it has been the case at times. I like a title in front of my name. It was very natural for me to ask students to call me Ms. Carlson, since when I was eleven years old and babysitting I wanted kids to call me Miss Jamie. I would love to say that this falls under a higher level need, but in reality it probably falls under self-esteem.

Now as a graduate student my motivation for education is to be able to be an excellent teacher. I taught for two years overseas and would say that I have been gifted with teaching, but I wanted to refine my skills and receive more training before I entered a classroom again. This need falls under the higher level need of self-actualization, because I want to be the best teacher that I can be.(Woolfolk, 2010, p. 434)

These items would be ranked starting with the lower level as 1) Desire to make grandparents and parents proud or belonging 2) The need to make a name for myself or self-esteem 3) The desire to be a life long learner which is intellectual achievement and 4) The desire to be the best teacher I can be which is reaching my full potential and self-actualization.

Task 2. Ambiguity and the classroom

A constructivist classroom is managed with a variety of learning styles applied and real life scenarios for students to engage in, often these scenarios can be ambiguous. For a student that is not a risk taker, this can often be intimidating, especially with the addition of asking students to think for themselves. This is extremely practical for their futures, but students are often intimidated to express their own views when it would be much easier to spew out something they had read in a book.

As I am writing this my mind goes back to my time teaching in China. Chinese students are traditionally not taught in constructivist classrooms, but I would say that most American teachers who go over there to teach do use constructivist concepts. I know especially for myself, I wanted to hear my student’s opinions, not just something they read off the internet. They were wary of taking risks because they had been told that their opinion was not as valuable as a famous scholar’s opinion.

One of the ways I aided my students to be willing to take risks was to give them constant examples of what that can look like, I would demonstrate projects and speeches for them. I gave them a lot of materials and asked questions that would engage them. I discussed topics that interested them and applied to their lives. I also gave them constant encouragement and praised them when they shared their opinions.

Another way to help these students is to give them rubrics and structure, but embedded in these rubrics give points for creativity to encourage students to add their own thoughts. In China,  I would encourage my students to take ownership of their learning by helping me plan out the semester and the types of things they would like to study, and how they would be assessed(Woolfolk, 2010, p. 365).

Teaching students in a constructivist style, when that is something they have never experienced before is definitely a challenge. It is a challenge though that I think made me a better teacher and helped make me aware of the problems that different students might encounter.


Woolfolk, A. (2010). Educational psychology. (12 ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Success for the Inductive Group

November 4th, 2012

“The beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand.”-Frank Herbert

When studying any type of science or any subject in fact it is important to give students hands on experiences with the material. Self-discovery is extremely important but for self-discovery to happen effectively a teacher must first set up the framework for students to learn. Once again we see the need for teachers to be aware of their students learning styles. The first teacher really only focuses on visual and linguistic learners whereas the second teacher realizes the need for kinesthetic processes to be used in the classroom.

Ms. Baveja activates prior knowledge in her students which “…is key. Students come into our classrooms filled with knowledge and beliefs about how the world works. Some of these preconceptions are right, some are part right, and some are wrong. If teaching does not begin with what the students ‘know,’ then the students will what it takes to pass the test, but their knowledge and beliefs about the world will not change”(Woolfolk, 2010, p. 356). By using this prior knowledge Ms. Baveja is able to help them gain a deeper real world understanding of what they are learning in class. Not only do they memorize the plants in their book, but they are able to use the knowledge they have learned in a practical sense by categorizing other plants as well.

The students in the inductive group are able to take concepts and turn them into schemas which, “are abstract knowledge structures that organize vast amounts of information”(Woolfolk, 2010, p. 300). They are able to attain concepts and use the tools that they have been given. I think that this is a main reason that the inductive group did so much better on the test than the illustration group. Ms. Baveja has taken theory-based knowledge, along with defining attributes for the different plants and given them to the students to be carried out in research.

She takes abstract concepts and makes them concrete. The students in the inductive group are able to thrive in the classroom as opposed to the illustration group. The most unnerving part of the illustration group is that the word ‘tutorial’ was used for them. The teacher should be doing more engaging activities with them as opposed to just showing them their textbook. They are not able to practically use their knowledge if they are just using a textbook all of the time.

Ms. Baveja applies a variety of different teaching techniques, whereas the first teacher really only uses one or two. Students who are being encouraged to activate prior knowledge and apply it will almost always do better in the end and remember what they did in the process since they are using a variety of means of remembering information.

Woolfolk, A. (2010). Educational psychology. (12 ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.




Tree Huggers: The Mission to save the trees

October 21st, 2012

Taking care of the trees!

A species on the verge of extinction is an exceptionally hard problem to solve. Upon initial reading of this problem, I was overwhelmed by the dilemma, especially because of my lack of prior knowledge of trees and especially this rare form of trees.

I come at this problem as a historian. More often than not I study things that are already extinct, not in the process of becoming extinct. My initial hypothesis would involve the following:

  • I think that the initial negative effects on this species were caused by an abrupt event in history
  • I also believe that a progressive change in the environmental conditions has weakened the trees to the point of lack of reproduction and death

My long-term memory is currently under duress as I think back to my days of high school and freshmen year biology. I would need to put my explicit and implicit long term memory into use to solve this problem. “Explicit memory is knowledge from long-term memory that can be recalled and consciously considered. We are aware of these memories-we know we have remembered them. Implicit memory, on the other hand, is knowledge that we are not conscious of recalling, but that influences behavior or thought without our awareness”(Woolfolk, 2010, p. 297).  I am also feeling like my first step in figuring out this problem would be to ask my Dad(yes even as an adult), because he is a biologist.

My Plan for solving the tree disaster would include these steps…

  1. As someone who has held a variety of positions of leaderships and because of my self-efficacy I feel qualified to lead the team that will solve this problem. But my first action as Team Leader would be to assemble a team who had much more of a declarative knowledge of trees than I do. As a leader, I know that I have certain strengths and weaknesses and being aware of these is extremely important.
  2. Using historical and scientific methodologies we would put procedural memory into practice by studying the general history as well as the environmental history of the island.
  3. Having someone to correlate and process the data at the end of every day would be extremely important to keep the entire team on the same page.
  4. By studying the historical and environmental conclusions on the island we would be able to prove or disprove our initial hypothesis.
  5. If we are able to prove our hypothesis, then we have solved the problem, if not, we would need to develop a new hypothesis.

Some of the information that I think would be helpful in discovering what is happening to the Calvaria tree is the environmental history of the island. Average temperature, rainfall, and soil and water PH levels for the last twenty-five years, would help us have an early picture of the conditions we would be dealing with. We would need in depth genetic information on the tree, for example: what other trees is it related to?

This problem is not going to be solved over night but with perseverance and a knowledgeable team I feel that it would be possible to discover the cause of the negative effects on this species of tree. Extinct populations of species fill history books, but hopefully this species will not join the others.

Image found at http://treehuggerplz.deviantart.com/

Woolfolk, A. (2010). Educational psychology. (12 ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

The Challenges of Immersion

October 7th, 2012

This film probably affected me more than anything else we have studied thus far. Since I spent the last two years in China learning Chinese by immersion and teaching Chinese ELL students I feel like this really resonated with me. Learning a language by immersion can be difficult but extremely effective. As I watched the video I pictured so many times when I was standing in China listening, or at least trying to listen to what someone was telling me and not really understanding. I would pick up a few words here and there but it was never easy. I also think of when I taught low-level ELL students and having them stare or whisper in their native tongue during class, the frustration on their faces as they tried to communicate with me. Body language was extremely crucial in the film, as well as picking up on vocal cues. Had their only been audio I would have thought I was listening to gibberish. If being overseas and watching ELL students struggle with learning English I can only imagine an ELL Student sitting in an American classroom and trying to understand what is going on around them.

Second language learning is not easy and this video definitely illustrated that. It is difficult as an adult to learn another language, “Adults have more learning strategies and greater knowledge of language in general to bring to bear in mastering a second language. But recent research on the brain and bilingualism suggests ‘there is most definitely a ‘sensitive period’ for optimal bilingual language and reading exposure and mastery’”(p. 175-176). Most students who are ELL students do not learn second language during their optimal period, they are trying to catch up while learning not only everyday vocabulary but specialized vocabulary. It is especially in this content area vocabulary that ELL students have a lot of trouble. Students need to learn how to describe things in little words before they can describe them in big words, they need to observe you and how you use the language and they need to be able to everything in a context which is often difficult with English. “It takes about 2-3 years in a good-quality program for children who are learning a new language to be able to use basic or contextualized language face to face in conversation”(p. 180). In China, I was teaching college students oral English and many of them were just becoming confident in speaking face to face for the first time after having studied English for at least six years if not longer.

Something else that I think is extremely difficult for ELL students is the different dialects for native English speakers. Last year in China I was on a team of three foreign teachers, I am from Virginia and Upstate New York(but I pretty much claim the south as home), one of my teammates was from Pittsburgh and the other was from Texas. Our dialects varied widely and I think it is necessary with ELL students to recognize these differences. Our students would often comment on how we spoke differently and sometimes they would not even be able to pick out what the differences were, they just knew it was different. Wolfolk explains that teachers need to be aware of dialect differences in their classrooms, but I also think that teachers need to be aware of their own dialect differences.

ELL students face a unique set of challenges as they try to learn a new language. They must learn and comprehend not only basic vocabulary and grammar, but specialized and regional vocabulary as well. I know as someone who learned Chinese through immersion it can be one of the best helpful but also difficult ways at the same time. My ability to read Chinese is very poor but I am able to speak it when I need it as well as understand a lot of what I hear. Through my difficulties learning in another culture I know that I have only scratched the surface of what some of my students might experience someday, and what my students often did experience last year. Being aware of ELL Students and their difficulties is crucial in helping them succeed and becoming literate English speakers.

Woolfolk, A. (2010). Educational psychology. (12 ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.