I feel I have gained a large
amount of knowledge in a short amount of time. When I started the program
in August I was nervous about the prospect of doing everything on-line.
Before I started CTER, I was on the computer often, checking my e-mail
and looking at web pages designed by others. I used the computer for word
processing and to publish a yearbook but the thought of creating and maintaining
my own web site seemed like a daunting task. I was relieved to find
knowledgeable students and faculty members who shared their knowledge,
making the class run smoothly for me.
My first experience in creating a web page came in a class I took in the summer of 1998 through Springfield District 186. It was terrible!! I made a few pages but then everything had to be put in a folder and then sent via e-mail to someone else to put on the web site. It took several days to see what the pages actually looked like when loaded onto the page. It was also difficult to make changes. Imagine my relief when I found out it only took a few minutes to make changes to a page, send it to the server and see results immediately! It was great to eliminate the middleman. I also didn't realize how easy it was to design a web page. Because I was very comfortable with word processing, I didn't find it hard to make the transition to Composer. I must feel comfortable with web page design; I have already started to teach my fifth graders how to create their own basic web pages. I also didn't realize how many sites out there on the web provide free backgrounds and graphics. Designing my e-Portfolio helped me establish a nice group of bookmarks where I can find interesting items to use on my web page or to help my students generate web pages that are more exciting.
The CTER CD-ROM had many software programs that I found very useful and not very difficult to master. After my initial experience with WS-FTP in the computer lab I was very nervous! After the glitches were worked out and I logged on for the first time, the nervousness went away. I didn't realize how easy it was to send documents to a server. It was also very helpful to have good instructions in our notebooks. I admit having to refer to them often, mostly because I forgot which password to use. I hope that the instructions are just as good for the Macintosh because I would like to put the projects my students completed as a link from my project page and I would rather do it at school than drag it all home. The other piece of software I was thrilled to see on the CD was Adobe Acrobat Reader. I tried downloading this program from the Internet and it took forever! It took so long that I decided to quit (my husband also said he needed to use the phone -- we still only have one line). I find it an invaluable resource when using the web for more than just playing.
Until this class began I had only communicated electronically with e-mail. I now understand how to use Web Board, Real Player, and CUSeeMe. I feel like I have had lengthy conversations with my classmates yet we haven't been together since August. As an elementary teacher it is easy to feel isolated and out of the loop. I absolutely love all the sharing that goes on in Web Board. I have learned a lot through the readings, but feel I have learned an equal amount through conversations in Web Board. I have been inspired by others' projects, entertained by humor, and helped with technical aspects of the class that I needed help with.
Although was only able to listen to two of the audio chats, I found them to be very educational. I'm not sure how hard they are to transmit but they were easy to receive. I would like to learn more about those possibilities in future courses. I would have liked to have a few more audio sessions, perhaps a lecture or two, where we had the chance to interact a little more with our classmates and the professor.
The CUSeeME software that I learned about was fascinating. I thought that that type of technology was limited to large corporations that had the money to purchase it and pay someone to facilitate their staff on how to use it effectively. I can't believe that it a version is free on the Internet. I am hoping to use this in my classroom in the future but I'm not sure how to incorporate it? Perhaps as a cooperative project with another teacher from the CTER program.
Before running the Bobby test on my web sites I had given little thought to the many access issues that face our nation. Much to my surprise, I found out that access issues go much deeper than purely socioeconomic issues. As Diane pointed it out, people who are denied home access because they don't have the financial resources can access technology in many public places if they try. Access issues due to disabilities on the other hand are hard to overcome. Many web pages are dependent upon graphics rather than text, which put many at a disadvantage. This is only going to become worse as more and more people are putting their own web pages on the Internet unless people are educated on the issue. I feel that if people are educated they will make the effort to make sure their sites are accessible. In the project I am working on with my students we are talking about how to design pages that are accessible. Their final test will be to run the Bobby test to see if their site is accessible to as many people as possible.
I am hoping that our society will be moving away from the cathedral mode and more toward the bazaar mode. I feel this would help immensely in the area of computer ethics. Currently a large amount of software and software packages are sold for a lot of money. This means that they are inaccessible to many people who would like it. This lends itself to people violating copyright laws. If we move toward a model of the bazaar it will make two improvements to the software: price and quality. It would help in the area of ethics because people wouldn't have to steal in order to receive good software. This would be great for education because the students would have the opportunity to use first class software in the classroom.
Evaluation, both of resources on the web and student work, is an area that I feel I need a lot of help with. During this course I have thought a lot about how to critically read the web. I feel that I am doing a much better job at this than when I started but I'm still not sure I'm ready to teach fifth graders how to evaluate everything they see, hear, and read. I want them to be cautious about material they see but I don't want to turn them into cynics at such a young age. As for my assessment of their work I also am in need of some help. I particularly am in need of ideas and ways to evaluate work done cooperatively. My project is currently in full swing, and will be finished before I have a chance to learn much more about alternative ways of assessing, but I would like to learn more so the project can get better.
My experience in this class has been great. I learned more than I expected during the weekly assignments. In fact, I didn't realize how little I knew about particular areas until I was working on the weekly assignments. Each one challenged me to think deeply. The interaction with adults, even though not in person, was a highlight. I learned a lot from everyone in the class. I am most pleased with the fact that we had a choice on our project. I was able to work on a project that I otherwise would have felt too guilty to spend so much time on. I never would have thought that it would entail the students making their own web page at the start of the course. Their teacher has come a long way since August and they are reaping the rewards!