Sunday, April 28, 2013

Project #15 SmartBoard Instruction Part 2

Project #9 Final Report on PLN

Who I follow on Twitter

Over the course of EDM310, I've read many amazing blog posts by many amazing people. Hadley Ferguson, the teacher I was assigned to for my C4T #3 assignment, even left a comment on one of my blog posts! She offered to help me in any way she could! I've also connected with lots of great kids around the world through C4Ks. And, of course, I have my fellow classmates I've connected to through group projects and leaving comments! Even when I'm done with EDM310, I'll still have these people I can come to if I ever need help or if there's something I need to learn. Even when I've graduated college and I begin my career, I can still look back to my PLN and seek guidance from them if I need to.

C4T #4

Ideas and Thoughts: Learning Stuff Since 1964

My last CRT had be reading two blog posts by Dean Shareski. The first blog post I read was titled Connected From The Start. In the post, Shareski announces the publishing of a new book titled Connected from the Start by a woman named Kathy Cassidy, for which Shareski wrote the foreword. He quotes what he wrote for the foreword for the rest of the post. He praises Cassidy for her work, saying she is "a shining example of what one teacher [can do] with some grit, curiosity and passion". Cassidy wasn't always tech savvy, but she learned how to do many things, like blogging, and she learned how to apply it to her teaching. The book itself is about teaching kids early on how to use technology.

In the comment I left, I said that I agree that it's important to start teaching kids as early as possible how to use the different technology we have available. Technology is advancing at an astounding rate, and our kids have to be able to keep up, just like us! I noted that a lot of supplemental learning can be done through Skype, Twitter, and blogging, and that those tools make learning more fun and engaging for children.

The second blog post I read was If You Hate Doing Assessment, You’re Doing it Wrong. In this post, Shareski describes the way he does his end-of-term assessments. He allows his students to do their own final assessments by providing them a short guideline on which aspects of the course to evaluate themselves on. He states that reviewing his students' final assessments gives him insight into his students' learning as well as his teaching. He enjoys seeing which aspects of the course had which level of impact on different students. At one point, he compares teaching to golf, saying "you never really perfect it but it’s great fun in trying to get better."

I commented that self evaluation really is a great way to get students to think about what they learned over the course of the semester. It also gives them a chance to be honest and provide constructive criticism over what the teacher did well and things that can be improved. This gives the teacher some good feedback and allows them to reflect on their own course, and this gives students the opportunity to show how much they've learned.

Blog Post #14

Course Smart: Learn Smart. Choose Smart.

This week, we were assigned to read the article Teacher Knows if You’ve Done the E-Reading by David Streitfel. The article talks about a newly developed technology called CourseSmart. CourseSmart allows teachers to keep track of their students progress as they read through their digital textbooks. The article specifically talks about how a few professors at Texas A&M have been using CourseSmart. The system tracks students' progress through their digital textbooks and shows their professors their engagement indexes. It is speculated that this engagement information could provide information on which students might fail the class and how many students in the class are falling behind. Some students likened the new technology to "Big Brother", since CourseSmart keeps an ever-watching eye on students' involvement in their textbooks. The article also discusses some of the problems with CourseSmart. Students could simply leave their digital textbooks open and go do something else, or if they tend to take notes on paper or on a computer program that isn't tracked, CourseSmart will give them a low engagement score.

As a teacher, I have to say this could essentially be a very useful technology. I could give reading assignments and actually know whether or not my students really did the reading. If I saw that a student was getting behind in his or her reading, I could pull him or her aside and ask them what was up. I could see if maybe something was going on in his or her life that was keeping him or her from doing the reading. Or perhaps he or she is just having difficulty with the reading. CourseSmart would really provide me with useful information that could allow me to better help my students and cater to their specific needs.

As a student, I'd be a little wary about this technology. Personally, I prefer printed textbooks to digital textbooks. It's easier for me to read printed textbooks than to stare at a screen for hours at a time reading. Plus, I take hand-written notes because it helps me learn better. So if my engagement score depended on me highlighting in the text and taking notes in the system itself somehow, I would probably get a low engagement score. However, using this new technology could help me learn to take notes in a different way that might actually work better for me. It would also encourage me to read more. I have a bad habit of not actually doing any of the reading in my course textbooks because so far, I've been able to get by without it. But I know at some point, this bad habit will come back to bite me in the butt, so using CourseSmart could actually be a big help to me.

If I were to talk with Mr. Guardia, the professor of the class discussed in the article, I'd ask the following questions:
  • Overall, have your students' scores increased after the introduction of CourseSmart?
  • Have you considered switching textbooks after getting some feedback from CourseSmart? 
  • Have your students come to you with any questions or concerns about CourseSmart? 
  • If so, what are some of the concerns they've raised? 
  • Have you spoken with your fellow professors about CourseSmart? What are their opinions/concerns? 
  • Overall, are you happy with the results CourseSmart has provided you with? Will you continue using CourseSmart?

If I were to interview the students in Mr. Guardia's class, I'd ask the following questions:
  • Have your grades improved since the implementation of CourseSmart?
  • Do you think CourseSmart is an invasion of your privacy?
  • Has CourseSmart helped you improve your reading and note-taking skills?
  • Do you have any suggestions on how the CourseSmart system could be improved?
  • Would you like to see CourseSmart implemented in more of your classes?
  • Have you had any issues with the system not working properly?

There are a lot of interesting and informative comments that have been left in the article's comments section. Many comments are critical of the system, and they pose some good points as to why CourseSmart could be more problematic than helpful. If I were to leave a comment on the article, it would be as follows:
I can see where this system could be both helpful and harmful. On one hand, it actually encourages students to read their textbooks and gives them an incentive to do it, i.e. high engagement scores. It also has the possibility to help them improve upon their reading and note-taking skills and try new forms of note-taking they may have not considered in the past. On the other hand, being forced to read the textbooks might have a negative impact on students. Straight reading isn't the best studying strategy for everyone, and it may encourage professors to slack in their lectures, thinking that their students can just read the textbook to get more information on the subject. Also, while this system seems to help professors gather more information on their students, this could actually create a less personal atmosphere between professors and students. As someone else in the comments said, professors might start seeing their students as mere scores on a screen instead of striving to reach out to them on a personal level and interact with them in person. I think it would be best if more research and experimentation was done before CourseSmart is implemented in any more classrooms and universities.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Final Project Progress Report

Google Hangouts

For my group's final project, we've decided to go with Option B, which is to create a 10-15 minute movie to help prospective EDM310 students prepare for EDM310. We have plans to do a Google Hangout this Wednesday evening to discuss our project. Unfortunately, aside from that, we have yet to make much progress. Our group has failed to be very communicative, and I've had to step up and be the one to initiate discussions and send emails to the rest of the group. However, this hopefully won't impede our ability to create an excellent final project.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Blog Post #13

Back to the Future

For the first part of this week's assignment, we were asked to watch a video titled Back to the Future by Brian Crosby. The video begins with Crosby talking about his fourth grade students. He currently has 24 fourth-graders, and about 90% of those students are second language learners and at-risk students. On the second day of class, he asked them to take a survey. Pictured below is a still from the video listing the results of the survey:
Class Survey-second day of school

Crosby goes on to show us a picture of his classroom where each student in his class has a laptop and they all have a blog. He then starts to tell us about an awesome science project he did with his students. He started out the project by doing a few small activities to teach his students about atmospheric pressure and how hot-air balloons work. When they were done with those activities, they posted on their blogs about what they learned and embedded videos of their experiments into their blogs. After the students learned about the history of ballooning, they even created a wiki page to store all their knowledge! Crosby even had his students write stories where they themselves were balloons being sent up into the atmosphere. When they were done with their stories, they made book covers and illustrations and published them onto their blogs. Posting all of this onto their blogs allows his students to see that people are actually reading their posts and are interested in them!

After that, Crosby asked his students to write about their "High Hopes" for their school, community, and the world. They then used an online program to turn those High Hopes into trading cards, which they dubbed strato-cards, since those cards are going to go up into the stratosphere on the class balloon they later send up. Having all of this on their blogs enabled people from all over to see their High Hopes, and a lot of people were interested in doing the same thing. So, Crosby encouraged these people to send in their own High Hopes, which Crosby would send up in his class's balloon. Not only was this activity fun for Crosby's students, but it allowed his students to build a learning network. His students left comments on the blogs of other students from around the world, and those other students left comments on Crosby's student's blogs. His students had an audience, and as we've seen before, having an audience is really encouraging to children!

Crosby goes on to describe that each of his students had a part in creating the "payload", which is all of the stuff they were sending up with the balloon. There was even a camera inside the payload so they could see what happened during each step of the balloon's launch, flight, and descent. After all this had happened, other students and teachers from around the world wrote how they wanted to do activities and projects just like Crosby's, and Crosby had his students conduct a Skype interview with a classroom in New Zealand. The Skype interview allowed his students to review the material, since they were explaining it to the New Zealand students, and it gave them an opportunity to show off their knowledge! Crosby tells us how language intensive the Skype interview was, and he gives a list of all the skills that were exercised during the interview:
Language Intensive Skills

Crosby explains that this was all part of active learning, and active learning really empowers students to want to learn on their own. They're learning how to connect to the world and how to collaborate with others. On top of this, this type of learning is motivating! Crosby quotes, "We can't just keep racing kids through school. It can't be a race. We have to keep making sure that we're giving them opportunities to build schema for the world." We have to make sure, as teachers, that we're teaching kids what they really need to know. We need to engage them, motivate them. We need to teach them how to be independent learners. Learning doesn't stop once you graduate from school. You learn all the time, and that's what we need to emphasize!

Blended Learning Cycle

20th century French interpretation of what classrooms will look like in the year 2000

The second part of this week's assignment was to watch Paul Andersen's Blended Learning Cycle. What is Blended Learning? Andersen describes it as "taking the compelling parts of online, mobile, and classroom learning and just blending them together in a classroom." Andersen then explains the Learning Cycle, which is made up of 5 Es: engage, explore, explain, expand, and evaluate. When you put those two ideas together, you get the Blended Learning Cycle:
Graphic of the Blended Learning Cycle

To remember the parts of his Blended Learning Cycle, Andersen uses the acronym QuIVERS: Question, Investigation/Inquiry, Video, Elaboration, Review, and Summary quiz. Andersen then gives us an example of this that he uses for his AP Biology class.

I like his idea of the Blended Learning Cycle. It really gives students an opportunity to become more engaged in their learning. They're not just sitting back while the teacher lectures them. They're actually actively participating in their learning. They're being encouraged to investigate, to experiment, and to ask questions. The students conduct experiments to better help them understand the material, and once they're ready and sure they are knowledgeable enough, they take short summary quizzes. Even if they don't do so well on the quizzes the first time, they are given the chance to retake them. This is what learning should be about. More teachers need to learn how to motivate and engage their students. Having engaged students makes the learning process much more enjoyable, and doing fun activities helps students realize that learning can be fun!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Blog Post #12


A few weeks ago, I came to the realization that mathematics wasn't something I truly enjoyed learning about. Since I didn't enjoy learning about it, I couldn't expect myself to enjoy teaching it, either. So, I decided to "follow my heart" and change my concentration from mathematics to Spanish. I've always had a knack for languages, and I've always loved learning new languages. So what better subject to teach than something I thoroughly enjoy learning about?

That being said, at first, I thought this assignment would be difficult. I had no idea how I could come up with an assignment relating to foreign language, but then I remembered something I talked about in my last blog post. In Blog Post #11, I talked about how I could use Skype with my students to talk to native Spanish speakers so my students could hear the language spoken straight from the mouth of a native speaker. Once I remembered that, the wheels in my brain started turning. So here is the assignment I've come up with:

Blog Post #__

1. Can you speak any foreign languages? If so, which ones? If not, what are some you'd like to learn? Explain why.
2. If you've ever taken a foreign language course, write one or two paragraphs about the technologies your teachers used in the classroom.
3. Think about what you've learned so far about technology and its many uses. Write two paragraphs on technology and strategies you could use in your classroom as a foreign language teacher.

And now that I've come up with the assignment, let's give it a go.

I cannot speak any foreign languages fluently, but I've taken multiple courses in Spanish and German. I consider myself conversational in both. I'd love to learn many more languages, like Russian and Japanese, if I can ever find the time. I've always been really interested in learning about other languages and cultures. I wanted to learn German because half of my ancestors were German, and I wanted to learn Spanish because more and more people in the United States are speaking it, and it would be very useful to know how to speak it.

Whenever I've taken foreign language courses, there wasn't much technology use to supplement our learning. Most of the time, we'd just open up our books and learn vocabulary words while looking at pictures so we know what they mean. On occasion, the teacher would boot up the SMART board and bring up a worksheet we had done and fill in the blanks using the SMART board. Of course, a lot of language comprehension comes from learning how to pronounce the words, and the best practice is by speaking it. But I think my teachers could have made the learning process more interesting than they did.

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, one use of modern technology to teach foreign language would be to use Skype to hold an interview with native speakers. Since I'm going to be teaching Spanish, I could use Skype to hold video chats with native Spanish speakers. My students will be able to get a better grasp on how the language is spoken and how to pronounce words correctly by listening to a native speaker. Plus, my students will be able to ask questions about the culture and receive accurate answers in real-time!

Of course, a huge part of learning a foreign language is also learning about the culture (or cultures). Because Spanish is spoken by a large number of different countries, there are a lot of different Spanish-speaking cultures. In order for my students to learn about them, I could assign each student a different Spanish-speaking country to learn about and have them use the internet to gather information on those countries. Then, they could make a PowerPoint presentation to express what they have learned. Another fun thing I could do with my students is to pair them up with students in a Spanish-speaking country. My students could type emails to the Spanish-speaking students. This will help my students learn how to build a personal learning network, as well as help them practice their Spanish skills! I could also have my students set up blogs to where they post their assignments. This will allow them to have a higher chance of gaining an audience, and I could even contact teachers in Spanish-speaking countries and have my students comment on their students' blogs, and vice versa! Doing all of this would definitely make learning Spanish much more fun for my students, and it would get them more involved in their learning!

Monday, April 8, 2013

C4K Summary for March

Comments4Kids Henry

Henry is a student in Mr. Huebl's class in Adelaide, Australia! The post on Henry's blog I read was If we share.... The blog post is a poem Henry wrote about sharing, and how if more people would share what they have, then the world would be a much better place! It's a nice poem, and you should give it a read!

In my comment, I said that I really enjoyed reading his poem. I've always loved reading and writing poetry, and that it would be great if people learned how to share their resources more. You can make a lot of friends by sharing, plus you can help out those who are less fortunate than you are.


Sam is a student in Ms. Lentine's class, and the post of his that I read is titled Larry and Tracy. In his post, Sam talks about a documentary, called Wretches and Jabberers, that his class watched about two autistic people named Larry and Tracy. Sam summarizes the documentary, explaining that Larry was born in the 1950s and was institutionalized, and Tracy wasn't given the opportunity to have a good education when he was young. However, in the 1990s, someone came up with a way for autistic people to communicate through typing, which helped people understand more about autistic people.

In my comment, I said it's sad how, in the past, people with disabilities were treated so horribly. I mentioned that it's amazing how much technology has improved and how it can help people with disabilities. I also explained that it's important to remember that people with disabilities deserve to be respected and treated as kindly as anyone else. Just because someone is disabled doesn't mean that they aren't smart! Sometimes, people with disabilities just can't communicate their ideas as well as we can.

There were two other kids whose blogs I left comments on, but the file I saved their links in seems to have been deleted, and I could not find the blogs again. I take full responsibility for this, and I sincerely apologize.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Blog Post #11

Smiling boy with a laptop
This week, we were assigned to watch a video by Ms. Kathy Cassidy, as well as a Skype interview between her and Dr. Strange. The video we watched is called Little Kids...Big Potential. In the video, we see pictures and video of Ms. Cassidy's students using the technology they have available in their classroom. First, we see the kids working on their laptops, and the child narrating tells us about how they all enjoy writing on their blogs. People leave them comments on their blogs, and they really enjoy seeing people's comments. The students also explain that their writing skills increase every time they post to their blog! One student makes a point that when you comment on people's blogs, you should never say anything mean. You should always be nice and stay positive when commenting, and that's great advice to follow!

The children also talk about how they use their class website as a central hub to find and pick sites that will help them learn about things like numbers and the alphabet. They do this during a set time during class, and they go to the class webpage to choose what they learn about. Another tool they use in the classroom is a wiki page. They asked for help from others to learn about different topics, like traditions and rituals. People added to the class's wiki their own examples of traditions and rituals, which helped the students learn about them. When the kids made a wiki about the alphabet, people from Alabama made videos and uploaded them to the wiki for the children to watch! Skype is another tool the children use often. They use Skype to talk to students at other schools, as well as experts in certain subjects! I have to admit I was thoroughly surprised when the children introduced their Nintendo DS systems as something they also used in their classrooms. I never really considered that the handheld gaming system could be used in classrooms as an educational tool, but the children talked about how they used them to play NintenDogs! They played the game to help them learn how to read. They also state that using the Nintendo DS has helped them become better problem solvers, and they've learned how to share.

We were also instructed to watch this Skype interview between Dr. Strange and Ms. Cassidy. When asked how she first got involved with technology and how long she's been doing this, she stated that she got involved with technology about 10 years ago because she had suddenly been given 5 computers for use in her classroom. She explains that she's actually had her class blog for 5 years at the point the interview took place. She also explains that she takes security measures to protect her students identities when they post on the internet, and parents are actually very excited and appreciative of their kids using the internet because they get to directly view their children's progress.

I think what Ms. Cassidy is doing is great! I think it's important to introduce kids to technology as early as possible. Even as kids they can learn so much from technology. I think it's neat how she created a class webpage with links to all kinds of games and learning exercises that her students can choose from. Giving them the freedom to choose which games they play to help them learn is such a good thing because it teaches the kids independence, but it also gives them the opportunity to show they can be trusted to use technology appropriately. That's definitely something I'll use when I become a teacher. I can create a class blog or webpage where I post assignments, and I can post links to useful websites. Since I'm changing to Spanish as my concentration, I could even use Skype with my students to talk to native Spanish speakers so my students can hear how it is spoken by someone for whom Spanish is a first language. Of course, there would be some obstacles I might face when using the internet in the classroom. I'll have to make sure my students understand that during classtime, checking Facebook or Twitter isn't appropriate unless I've given them a specified time in which they can do so. But I feel like I'll be able to trust my students, for the most part. As long as I show them I trust them and respect them, I'm sure they'll show me they can be trusted.

C4T #3

Middle School Matrix: Exploring the changing world of Middle School teaching and technology

For my third C4T, I was assigned to read two posts by Hadley Ferguson. The first blog post I read was Staying Connected. In this post, Hadley talks about how, over the past year, she spent a lot less time staying connected with those in her PLN than she usually does, and she comments that, because of it, she didn't grow or learn as much as she does when she is connected. She explains that staying connected by reading other people's blogs and following people on Twitter allows her to learn new things and keep up with new trends. She can compare her methods with those of others, and she feels she is a much better teacher when she stays connected. However, she iterates that by staying connected, you stay busy. It takes time and energy to stay connected with your PLN, but it's worth it because of all the things you learn and all the people you meet.

In my comment, I agreed that it's very time consuming to build your PLN and stay connected, which is something I'm learning about here in EDM310. But I've learned a lot from reading the blogs of teachers and other students. Everything I've learned can be applied to my future career as a teacher, so it's worth being busy and continuing to build onto my PLN.

The second post I read was Because a Laptop is Distracting. In this post, Hadley talks about some strategies to help students learn to deal with the distraction of the internet while working with computers. First, she says that it's important to accept that your students will struggle with getting distracted. It's all part of working with computers and the internet, but you need to talk to them about it and help them deal with it. Second, she advises that you provide your students with a time to "check in" with their social networking sites to help relieve the temptation. For instance, you can provide your students with 5 minutes before or after class to check their Facebooks and Twitters. Third, she tells us about a technique called "45 your laptops". When she tells her students to "45 your laptops", they tilt the screens down to about 45 degrees so the screen is less visible, and therefore, less distracting. It also helps get rid of that physical barrier that seems to exist between the student and the teacher. Fourth, she suggests you encourage students to take notes by hand instead of using the computer, at least initially. Taking notes by hand takes longer than typing them, and it helps them learn while they write. Then, you can assign your students to type up the notes as homework to help them learn and understand the notes even better. Lastly, she advises you to teach your students to try a few things to help them decrease the temptation, such as closing out all windows that don't pertain to schoolwork, turning the laptops upside down when not working with them, and using apps like iProcrastinate to help them keep track of the work they need to do.

In my comment, I expressed that I really struggled with getting distracted when trying to work on assignments, so that's something I need to learn to deal with before I can teach my students! I said that I thought the "45 the laptop" idea was a good idea since a lot of the distraction comes from being able to clearly see the screen. I also explained one strategy I've used before, which consisted of using a time manager app for my computer that blocked certain websites for a specified amount of time. I used this strategy to study for finals last semester, and I'll likely be using it again!