Lets Play Games!

March 31st, 2013

With the increase of technology in our lives on a daily basis it is foreseeable how in the future classrooms will lean more and more towards a virtual realm as well.  ”Today, many industries are changing the way they approach training. The futuristic worlds created by these environments replicate real life situations and provide unique teachable moments. It shouldn’t surprise you that virtual worlds are becoming more sophisticated than ever before (Chuang, 2012).”  The fact that so much can be done in the real working world with virtual training, is it any surprise that these same ideas are working their way into education as well?

When reviewing Dewey’s theories of education, virtual worlds would help his concepts to become more than just a theory.  They would become reality.  Dewey believed that students need guided experiences and to be involved in tasks based on real life challenges and issues in order to help foster the students’ learning.  Virtual worlds will provide a place where students can get a variety of experiences that will benefit their understanding of the concepts taught, whether it be in an actual classroom or even in a completely online virtual classroom.

To quote one of my favorite TV shows “It’s time to take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” That was, of course, a famous quote made by Mrs. Frizzle.  I don’t know a kid my age that didn’t want a teacher like Mrs. Frizzle and a field trip with the magic school bus; that would have been such a fun adventure and great way to learn.  There is no magic school bus, but through virtual worlds we can emulate some of those experiences.  Sure, the students won’t be turned into bats to better understand echolocation or go back in time to study dinosaurs, but the virtual world offers a plethora of experiences that we don’t have available to us on a daily basis in our classrooms.  They could take on the form of the bat, see through the bat’s eyes – um, echolocation.  Or students could survive a prehistoric world and use solely the naturalistic items that are available in the established prehistoric period.

A game that is under development right now is an educational version of the game SimCity.  “When it comes to diving deep into multi-faceted learning experiences, the teachers are looking toward technology. SimCityEDU is offering experiences in math, science, civics and economics — essentially focusing on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects (Poland, 2013).”  Classic games like this, ones that provide an opportunity for a student to evaluate and think critically, have so many uses in our classroom as well.  Each time we offer these varieties of learning, we see students develop and become engaged in their own learning.  Growing up Sim City was always fun to play.  Trying to build and manage a city was not easy, but it was engaging and fun, and it offered chances even then to use problem solving skills.  Glasslabs have seen how teachers already used the original game and are working with them to really produce something unique and usable in the classroom.  “Teachers have been using the commercial version of SimCity as a classroom tool for a long time, but with the newest version recently released and the EDU version soon to follow, GlassLab is trying to convene an online community of educators already working in the space, asking them to think creatively about what the game could do, offering lesson plans, and helping teachers to collaborate and share ideas (Schwartz, 2013).”  As educators we have so much at our disposal when it comes to technology. Often times it just takes a little thinking outside the box to really take advantage of it all.  The more we do this, the more engaged our students become, the more they learn and the more they retain.

Chuang, J. (2012, October 3). Using virtual worlds in education. Retrieved from http://people.uis.edu/rschr1/et/?p=5361

Poland, A. (2013, March 21). Teachers use ‘simcit’y as teaching tool for middle schoolers. Retrieved from http://news.msn.com/science-technology/teachers-use-simcity-as-teaching-tool-for-middle-schoolers

Schwartz, K. (2013, March 14). Simcityedu: Using games for formative assessment. Retrieved from http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2013/03/video-games-as-assessment-tools-game-changer/

Projects, on the Mini Side Part 2

March 24th, 2013

The online software tools used this week to develop our mini projects from were vastly different from the ones we used to create our projects from last week.  In the same vein of thought, last week I also feel that the tools were useful in engaging students in a very different way than the way the tools we used this week would be used for involving students.  With the voki and the podcast I did my projects on, I mentioned how they could be utilized in flipping a classroom as well as how they could be used by students for class projects. This week I will be going into some of the uses of the Google Trek and Capzles Timeline tools I created.

Making a timeline is something that students have done for years.  It usually involves something along the lines of cutting paper labels and gluing it down on a piece of construction paper.  There are lots of other variations that teachers have developed, enhanced, or modified over the years.  Needless to say, a timeline is a great way to put knowledge in order and see how things flow together from one point in history to the next, though it doesn’t have to be strictly for history class.  There is a flow and a timeline for everything in our daily lives.  Looking at language arts classrooms, there is a specific order to everything that happens in a story and creating and organizing that information could really benefit students.  It would allow students to show and understand the layout of the story and how the events unfold affecting the events that follow.

The difference between timeline creation of the past and present is the variety offered with the technological world.  Instead of just cutting and pasting, classrooms now have ways to create timelines that aren’t simple text with lines and dates.  They are rich with the capabilities to include a variety of media, whether it’s music and backgrounds to images representing the moment in history.  The Capzles website’s goal is to offer to instructors and schools a place where they can create classroom specific timelines. This version provides

  • “A secure, private space within Capzles.com specifically for teachers and their students, walled off from the rest of Capzles.com and inaccessible by the outside world.
  • Teachers can choose to share their reference Capzles with other teachers on Capzles.com, so others may use their materials to save time and effort. (“Capzles classrooms,”)”

This tool can be a valuable resource for teachers who teach a succession of events, be it a timeline, or a storyline, a series of unfortunate events, or a process of procedures.  In each case, the opportunity for students to share their learning, or learn what others share, using the multi-media approach makes learning more valuable and memorable.

All students would love an opportunity to get up out of their seats and see the world, experience other countries including their cultures and historic sites.  Google Treks gives us as instructors the opportunity to allow students to go on an adventure from their own desks.  They can research, see and enjoy almost anything around the world.  Google treks is “a unique mapping concept developed by Dr. Alice Christie, a professor at Arizona State University.  This amazing program allows the user to map specific geographic locations and to provide information that incorporates text, graphics, audio, and video files (Sharp).”

When looking for some ideas to get started, a great website to visit is http://googletreks.org/.  It is loaded with premade lesson plans involving google treks.  For my project, I took my students on a google trek of some of Japans countless temples and shrines.  There is so much to learn by seeing cultural differences, especially the impact it can have if students are learning a new language.  My goal for my Japanese class will be, not just to master the language, but to engage in learning about the rich culture and history of the country.  The variety of dialects and nuances involved in a language develop in every country.  Learning about the history and culture of a country will help the students grasp the intricacies of the Japanese language. If you want to take a look at my Japanese Temple Trek, please visit my website at: https://sites.google.com/site/indt501port/google-trek-of-japans-temples

Both of these tools will offer a new and engaging way for students to make their education their own.  Getting them excited and engaged in the classroom can often be difficult to accomplish.  However I feel like these tools are additional ways for a great start for any instructor attempting to do just that.  If instructors are pulled into the lesson, half the battle is won.


Capzles classrooms. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/capzles-classrooms?website_name=capzlesclassrooms

Sharp, J. (n.d.). Google trek – exploring the worlds ecosystem. Retrieved from https://sites.google.com/site/meetjohnsharpeducator/professional-work-samples/google-trek—exploring-ecosystems

Projects, on the Mini Side Part 1

March 17th, 2013

This week our assignments involved a variety of mini projects from which to choose from and then to produce for our professional online portfolios.  The two projects that I decided to create was the Avatar and the podcast. I can see how Voki and Podcasts will both continue to play an increasing role as classrooms become more and more technologically oriented. Though these roles might differ in their purpose and capabilities they are still more than usable.

I found the Voki Avatar to have a myriad of uses.  One of the hardest parts of learning a foreign language is having someone to practice with.  A Voki Avatar can be created and recorded to practice conversational abilities within whatever language that the students are practicing.  The students would be able to record one half of a preset conversation, or the instructor can prerecord an array of conversations that the students would be able to find online and use at their own pace and availability. It would take a bit of time but the students could work on an assignment in groups.  Rather than doing a conversation presentation in front of the class they could use separate Voki Avatars.  If the recording and clicking of the play button are timed correctly then the Voki Avatars would have the conversation with the students voices.  While the benefits in using this technological tool in this manner, the down side has to also be considered.  The process would be rather frustrating and time consuming due to the timing issues and might actually be more trouble than it would be worth for the students.  They might become discouraged and also, might lose the value of the content in the struggle of the technology.  In addition, I am not sure how a Voki could take the place of instruction as it would not be capable of fielding questions that might arise. The Voki Website however has several lesson plans accessible on their website, http://www.voki.com/lesson_plans.php,  and it seems to be a very versatile piece of technology for the classroom that is moving forward with its technological tools.

Right off the starting block, the podcast was what struck me as the most useful in a classroom. The podcast I made with Audacity was more of a complex project than the Voki Avatar.  The podcast I created was specifically audio with no visual aspects to it.  That does not mean that visuals cannot be applied.  In one of my previous blogs I talked about flipping the classroom.  Students need content to view at home if they are to have their lessons actually at home.  Podcasts are a great way to prepare and make available the lessons and content of the classroom so that the students have at their fingertips all the information they’ll need.  Examples include using visuals math concepts could be explained, the proper stroke order for Japanese kanji and a variety of other uses.  The concept behind my demo podcast was that the students will write a short story in basic Japanese and record it in class or at home and create a podcast of their own to share with the class.  ”Creating a podcast allows students to share learning experiences. It provides them with a world-wide audience that makes learning meaningful (“CMIS,” 20011).”  As stated on the CMIS website, the fact that their work will be available worldwide would help to develop an intrinsic value for their work and desire to do their best.  It would be best to keep in mind your schools internet capabilities though.  So it is best to be “aware that schools operating behind fire walls may not be able to take advantage of subscription services and many schools block the downloading of mp3 files (“CMIS,” 20011).”

As with all technology, both of these tools have their positive uses and some drawbacks.  The use of any technology can be used to enhance the students engagement and increase the enrichment of the subject matter, as long as the technology use doesn’t interfere with the content.  The Voki and Podcast wouldn’t have a steep learning curve. They would need some instruction and work with the teacher to work out the intricacies that might come along with them.


CMIS. (2011, December 9). Retrieved from http://www.det.wa.edu.au/education/cmis/eval/curriculum/ict/podcasts/


These Notes are Sticky

March 3rd, 2013

Padlet/Wallwisher is a very interesting concept that has developed by taking an idea used in our daily lives and transforming it into a digital counterpart.  People have been using sticky notes to remind themselves of things for years.  Whether it’s something to buy at the store, bookmarking a page in a textbook or putting daily reminders on the mirror for in the morning, it’s a useful tool for a variety of needs.  Now this same idea is available online and with a variety of uses just as valuable as the original, with an added advantage being able to share the ‘wall’ or padlet with friends and family so they can also post shared ‘notes’.  It can become a family bulletin board – online.

I have personally started a wall on Padlet to help me keep track of woodworking tools I need, websites, blue prints and ideas that I want to work on as my time frees up.  That’s just one example of how it can be used, which is not necessarily that far off from how it can be used in an educational setting either.  There are two ways that I can visualize when adopting the site for classroom setting.  One valuable use involves students simply viewing the wall without interacting with it.  This would use padlet as a way for a professor to remind students of assignments that they need to be working on or that have a due date coming up in the near future.

Looking at it from a perspective of how to use it in a Japanese class, another option is that I could have separate walls for each section or chapter.  On the wall would be the notes, vocabulary or grammar information for that chapter.  I saw an example on the padlet main site of someone who made a wall to help study colors in Japanese.  This padlet’s web address is http://padlet.com/wall/asbum8wkm7.  After studying the initial view, the student can then scroll down you get the answers to what you are supposed to be translating.  In this case, the padlet becomes more than just a ‘reminder’ of homework or class notes, now it can be a resource for studying and homework can be assigned through using the website as well.

Getting the students to interact with their instructor’s wall is another option, one that requires more planning on the instructor and the parents part.  With the parental consent of signing up on line, it would be a great way if a teacher or student is absent for them to ask questions and stay connected.  They can share thoughts and ideas for the classroom and assignments.  It could also take the place of a blog post in a new and creative way, which is always a great idea as it encourages reading and writing.  The value it as a blog is explained on the Frederick Schools’ TRT website, stating that “Blogging is a great way to engage students in both reading and writing activities, while also providing an exposure to the read-write-web” ((“Technology resource teachers,” 2008).

As it is an online option in which the students would be actively participating, they will need parental permission in order to be legally allowed to participate.  The teacher, or sponsor “must notify parents/guardians of the information to be collected and obtain parental/guardian consent before collecting and sharing with the Service the personal information of children under the age of 13 in order to establish an account or use the Service” (“Terms of Service”).  It’s important that we maintain proper privacy by complying with the U.S. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and, to a certain extent, The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

Once a wall is established and interaction begins, it would be essentially vital for the teacher to be constantly monitoring the postings.  As with any blog or online discussion board, teachers need to be continually in charge of the site, reading all postings, eliminating what is not needed or unacceptable, and responding, evaluating and noting the students’ input.  As stated at the TRT site, “it’s important that teachers, or the leader of a blogging activity, take the time with students to teach the appropriate digital citizenship skills necessary for appropriate blogging” (“Technology resource teachers,” 2008).

I really like the same webpage as it goes on with suggested teacher uses of blogs, but also has some safety guidelines, provides a link for blog permission slips, and suggested blogging rules.

While it is a great idea, it has a major drawback.  While the teacher can require that students put their first name – or a screen name that only the teacher knows, unless students ‘sign-up’ for an account and are logged in as themselves, students’ postings are labeled as anonymous.  This means students can post inappropriate items without putting a name, or even worse, use the name of a student they don’t like then posting.   It would be very difficult to follow up with inappropriate students who may break the rules or take advantage to harm or hurt on line, knowing their posting is unidentified.  I wonder if the risk would be worth taking with the older students.  Younger ones will probably not realize this initially.

I have already shared the padlet website with an instructor in my school.  I’m unsure how he will use it, but he is always on the lookout for new ideas to engage the students in his classroom. One thought I considered for use this week was with my sixth graders for ‘Read Across America’ Day – and Dr. Seuss.  I thought it would be a cool idea to have them post their favorite Dr. Seuss book – or tell about another book they liked.  I didn’t have time to get it together for Friday, though, as I would need that parent consent.

I would enjoy hearing the input that you guys would have to offer on the variety of projects, assignments and interactions you have come up with as well.

Technology resource teachers. (2008, October 22). Retrieved from https://sites.fcps.org/trt/blogging

Terms of Service. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://jn.padlet.com/knowledgebase/articles/153268-terms-of-service


My Classroom Flipped!

February 24th, 2013

For those reading my blog and unsure of what a flipped classroom is, it is one that “inverts traditional teaching methods, delivering instruction online outside of the class and moving ‘homework’ into the classroom(Strayer, 2011).” This would provide students the ability to watch lectures and lessons at home on their own computers, and most importantly at their own pace.  There would be no pressure to grasp a concept over the short period of forty-five minutes or a block of eighty minutes.  Utilizing educational technology it influences the learning environment so that in the classroom students can ask questions about what they might not understand and do activities and projects to help solidify the knowledge they gained the night before.  Some of the other benefits that flipping the classroom would add are:

  • “Gives teachers more time to spend 1:1 helping students
  • Builds stronger student/teacher relationships
  • Offers a way for teachers to share information with other faculty, substitute teachers, students, parents, and the community easily
  • Produces the ability for students to “rewind” lessons and master topics” (“Techsmith,” 2012)

I can see the advantages to a flipped classroom for many students.  It would allow students to work independent and at their own pace.  They would be successful as they would be competing solely against themselves for progress and would not feel the peer pressure for success.  In addition, using the classroom teacher as a resource and support for any problems they face or confusion or questions they have on content would allow for the expertise of the teacher to be used to help individual growth instead of trying to reach a class of 30 at different levels and motivation.

At the same time there are some drawbacks to pursuing a flipped classroom.   I feel that truly implementing a flipped classroom would take a massive amount of time to set up. If the plan is to implement the flipped classroom initiative, it would work best if it was set up at the start of the school year for several reasons.  First, the online lessons and lectures need to be prepared and in place before school start.  It would help the instructors to have it set up before-hand so they wouldn’t have to be scrambling to get everything established online while everything else is going on.  Content would have to be prepared and set up prior to the beginning of school, and I foresee it being extremely difficult and possibly even impossible to attempt to try and flip a classroom mid-semester or mid-year. In addition, for the students I believe that switching classroom styles would be disruptive to their routines and would require an adjustment time.  This adjustment time could be erased if the classroom flip was enacted prior to the initiation of the school year.

The most obvious is the requirement of students to use home technology.  The problem that this may present is that lower income, low socio-economic families might not have access to the technology needed to view and participate in the online lectures and group discussions. There are students not just in high school but in middle school as well that have to go home and watch younger siblings, help fix dinner for the family, maybe even have a job to help support the family.  Due to these various responsibilities many students have trouble doing homework itself, by changing the instruction to take place at home, yes they would be able to do the homework in school but they would be missing out on the actual instruction time with the teacher instead.  Lack of the needed technology or pressure of what they must do to help at home would cause these students to ‘be left behind’ – an unacceptable concept at this point in educational history.

The other drawback that I see is the responsibility placed upon the students in taking their own education into their hands at home.  I believe that for a classroom to be flipped the entire culture of the education system would have to be shifted and changed from the way it is today.  With all this focus on SOL’s and having to study and memorize information versus mastering a skill, in some areas it has reached the point of simply spoon feeding students information.  The perspective of students and their duties need to shift from that reliance and lack of responsibility to one where they are willing to put forth the required effort to attain the knowledge and instruction.  This means that students will have to take on and start applying 21st Century Skills of creativity and innovation, communication, collaboration and critical thinking and problem solving.  Which leads to my concluding paragraph – and where education should be heading . . .

Project based learning is an educational methodology that is becoming more common in schools and classrooms around the nation.  This type of educational philosophy would be an effective move in the direction of gradually adopting a flipped classroom style of education.  Instead of eliminating the traditional classroom completely, I feel a more effective method of changing the classroom’s instructional style is moving into project based style of learning.  This is my view of successfully flipping the classroom – turning a classroom from lecture style of class and education to one that is more student-directed and involves collaboration and communication among students.  In many cases I feel like there is no better way to learn something than to experience it and make connections in a realistic way. For my interest in Japanese and learning any language for students, this is vital if one hopes to truly grasp the language and gain fluency in both the written and spoken word.  If one becomes immersed in the environment, they are more likely to retain what they learn.  If the students are able to relate to the real world and create solutions and answers to real-life scenarios, they will apply skills they learn and retain knowledge gained longer.


Strayer, J. (2011). The flipped classroom infographic. Retrieved from http://www.knewton.com/flipped-classroom/

Techsmith. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.techsmith.com/flipped-classroom.html


My Moto? Ani”Moto”

February 16th, 2013

Since starting this class, I am discovering many new web based applications that I will be able to use in my classroom.  My technology tool box has continued to grow in content in both skills and ideas.  These are tools are not just things that I can incorporate into my classroom such as Scratch and Animoto, but also tools that I can use that will help me to develop and mature, becoming a better educator.  These include tools such as Linkedin and Googles RSS Reader.  There are so many avenues to take with technology, and the means of getting students engaged with their learning is growing with technology at what seems an exponential rate.

When working with the two latest applications that I have learned over the past two weeks, Animoto and Scratch, I can see advantages and value in both for the classroom.  But also, when comparing the two, I think that Animoto would generally be more valuable for a several reasons.  First, Animoto is a great introduction into video editing providing students who are interested in the visual arts and movie making the opportunity to get a taste of this field.  It allows them to be creative, to personalize their work and with the same format still make it their own. Also, I found the application for Animoto easier to learn than Scratch.  It had a less steep learning curve which would require less time for students to grasp how to make it work.  Easier to work makes it more valuable as students can spend more time on content and less time on learning process.  The learning curve and the easier manipulability of the program itself allowed me to jump right in and understand the concepts of how it works, and I feel like this would translate well to the students as well. This would be beneficial in blocks and classes where time is a big concern and the idea is to have students get as much time as they can for not only starting on a project, but finishing the project in a limited amount of time.  This is especially important in instances with students from lower socio-economic backgrounds that may not have access to technology or the internet at home to finish their work.  In addition, where Scratch provides an opportunity for students to experience programming, this program would be excellent for students who are not on the track to pursuing engineering, or other programming based fields in high school or college. It is very important that we keep all of these points in mind when we consider the type of program to use for assignments so that all the students have the opportunity to experience all that these technologies have to offer by allowing them the necessary time to invest in them.

When thinking about the many uses of Animoto, I decided to look on line at what other educators thought.  I looked at a couple of sites, one that I thought was especially valuable.  It is a teacher’s wiki site at http://teachweb2.wikispaces.com/Animoto.  It took the program, listed its strengths, including that “Animoto is intuitive and easy to use. It is easier and faster than creating a PowerPoint and yields much more visually satisfying products” (“Animoto,” 2013).  It also listed weaknesses, opportunities, threats, and numerous uses, including one that I plan on sharing with the World Geography teachers at Gayle, “Have students create a short photo brochure of a country you are studying” (“Animoto,” 2013).  Being a wiki, I know it is not a viable resource, but it is a conversation among teachers about its use.

My concern with Animoto though is it’s availability to educators to use in the classroom.  It was fairly simple for us as educators to sign up for our free educators login information.  However, I went back and looked at the site and didn’t see any classroom signups readily available.  The students in a class could, I suppose, sign up for the free 30 second videos.  I feel like that would severely limit their options when doing a project for the classroom.  I guess this is a little bit of my marketing background emerging, but If Animoto were to make a classroom package where schools could purchase logins for classrooms to use within the school for a reasonable fee, that would be beneficial for all parties involved. I did find a site that explained how to best use the site as an educator.  It said, “educators get an all access pass, worth $30 a year, for free. This will allow you to create an unlimited number of online slideshows that are not restricted in length. . . (for students under the age of 13) Animoto recommend you use some fake email accounts from gmail to create generic student accounts of your own for them to use”  (Wistrom, 2010). I am willing to do that, but so far have not been able to go through the process.

While Animoto would be an easy to use program, it is very limited due to restrictions placed on the presentations by the website.  I like the idea.  I see it as a valuable resource for the classroom teacher and students.  But I also so many limitations at this point that I wonder if it would be worth the effort of creating the limited 30 second videos that they can at this time.  I am afraid the students would lose a lot of interest in a short time due to frustration because of limitations.

Works Cited

Animoto. (2013). Retrieved from http://teachweb2.wikispaces.com/Animoto

 Wistrom, E. (2010, 9 06). Creating free online slideshows with animoto in the classroom. Retrieved from http://www.brighthubeducation.com/teaching-methods-tips/57062-animoto-com-in-the-classroom/


Got a teaching itch? Use Scratch!

February 10th, 2013

Endeavoring to help the students engaged in the classroom and develop the 21st Century Skills can take on many forms.  Scratch is a very interesting software download and has a lot of potential use in classrooms that, when used, would invariably strengthen these skills.  From the instructors use to students use, it could be a fun tool for the students to use in a classroom setting or at home.

There is a lot of potential in the Scratch program for students across the curriculum.  For my curriculum, it provides students with the opportunity to experience basic programming in a different way.  The programming that students do would aid them not only in developing their programming skills, but also requires creativity and critical thinking skills as well.  These two C’s are part of the four C’s of 21st Century Skills that we are pushing in our classrooms on a daily basis.  By establishing a rubric of the instructor’s expectations and desired outcome, the Scratch program provides students with the chance to be creative in how they could display some of what they have been learning in class through pre-made sprites, its movements, sounds and even by making their own sprites to use.  There are so many possibilities the students could pursue.

Not only would it provide the students a creative outlet, it would also help them to develop their critical thinking and problem solving skills.  Trying to determine how best to reach the goal that has been set by the instructor, requires thought processes that are far above just repetition and mundane thinking.  Students have to think the process through carefully while completing the programming process to achieve the goal.  They must use critical thinking skills.

I have had the opportunity to work with students on some robotic projects in their science class over the last year or so through the VDP (Virginia Demonstration Project).  The VDP involves the Navy, and Mary and William University, and started its program in Stafford schools.  This program’s goal of integrating STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) through project based learning, introducing students to the creative side of these subjects.  As explained in a study on the program, “‘Too often science education fails to engage student interests and is separate from their everyday experiences.  Curriculum and education reform efforts suggest that when students “do Science” they gain knowledge and skills that are transferrable to future problems that help prepare them to approach college and career with the tools to succeed’” (as cited in Laboy-Rush, 2007).  The program involves engineers from Dahlgren who come in and help students use 21st Century Skills involving programming and robotics to save animals in oil spills, maneuver around a coral reef, etc. Also pulled into the pot are the Language Arts teachers who facilitate students investigation of STEM careers, or researching then create Public Awareness Ads on oil spills or other environmental issues.  This year, the two 7th grade science teachers at Gayle Middle were introduced to Scratch.  They talked about how useful Scratch would be in preparing students for the programming requirements that were needed within their engineering courses and robotic projects.  The Scratch program is an excellent opportunity for students to get their feet wet in programming in a fun and creative way.

While experimenting with Scratch myself, I approached the designing of my program in Scratch as I would a game that I would play on the computer.  Honestly this meant simply goofing around with the program before trying to get into the reading or listening to the tutorials.  I went ahead and just played around with the movements, sound and sprites to see what some of the basics would look like.  The little program I made was a little quirky demonstration using Japanese words so that it might have multiple purposes.  If I get a Japanese class later down the road I plan on incorporating these clips and animations to help students have a fun way to read and practice their basic vocabulary and grammar skills.  The idea of a story that they will follow throughout the semester comes to mind.  As the semester goes on the content will become more in depth and complex, but just like Brainpop that the students enjoy, I see it being a fun engaging way for them to practice as a warm up or maybe to translate as a quiz.  The other possibility is to have the students create their own little story board throughout the year as a project to present to the class.  The options are out there, the only thing to do is to go and make it happen!

  Work Cited

Laboy-Rush, Diana. (2007). Integrated STEM Education through Project-Based Learning. Learning.com. 10 February, 2013 from http://www.rondout.k12.ny.us/UserFiles/Servers/Server_719363/File/12-13/STEM/STEM-White-Paper%20101207%20final%5B1%5D.pdf.

My Copy…right? :D

February 3rd, 2013

Copyright infringement is a very real occurrence.  In today’s age of readily available information and visual images it is very important to model and thereby help develop our student’s ethical standards pertaining to these things.  As instructors it is essential that we adhere to the moral expectations just as much as the students we are teaching these protocols to.  We have to examine ourselves and determine what we expect because that is going to impact what our students see.  Children as a whole notice and absorb a lot more than we think they do, so if we go in with a ‘do as I say and not as I do’ mentality then that is going to achieve nothing.  The model we should portray becomes as valueless as the shoplifter that tells his/her child that it is wrong to steal.  And, that is exactly what we are doing, stealing from the creators of the words or images that we are using.

Working in a middle school, I see kids come in with projects all the time with various photos they’ve printed out and put on a poster board for a history project.  Where did all these images come from?  Where did they get their information from?  As a vast majority of teachers now take their students into the computer labs – even into the library computer lab – and solely use the internet for their research, it is safe to say that most of it came from the internet, specifically from a Google search.  (Which opens the topic – whatever happened to good old research involving books and encyclopedias in addition to the internet?)  These students, for the most part, probably know very little to nothing about copyright, fair use, infringement, or creative commons.  So when do we start educating these students about these topics? We obviously can’t hold a 6th grader at the age of 12 to the same standards that high school students are with their APA and MLA formatting of reference pages.  However, it is not too soon to start discussing these things and making them aware of the repercussions.

In talking with some of my peers, I understand that very soon a requirement in Stafford County Public Schools will be that students have to take an online course before graduation.  Some concern that has already been noted includes conversation from teachers from other counties where online classes are already required.  Most of the comments have been far from positive and are very critical of the coming newly technology requirement.  Concerns center around the students’ lack of creativity, their failure to develop deep thoughts showing actual comprehension and learning, and the fact that a majority of the work is nothing but plagiarism and copyright violation.  While the plethora of images and information at the student’s fingertips can be a valuable resource and of great assistance, it can also hinder students’ ability to think on their own and develop their own creative voice to use in expressing themselves in written and visual form.  Technology can become a crutch that interferes with students’ ability to develop and use the four C’s of 21st Century skills.  “When educators talk about 21st-century skills and preparing students for the world outside of a school’s traditional four walls, the emphasis is on developing creative thinkers and self-directed risk takers who are able to ask thoughtful questions” (Coffman T. 2013).  The information and images available are good and helpful, but the activities and examples we set for our students need to revolve around them making ethical decisions about their work.  The students in our classrooms have so much potential; it’s our job to find a way that they can express themselves in a healthy and ethical manner.

When creating a citation for eHow, the bibliography site immediately stated that ehow.com is not credible.  Yet, I really like the ‘guidelines for students ’ presented by eHow’s webpage dealing with Copyright Laws for Students.  Their Tips for Student Permission state, “Any time you want to use an existing work, make sure you have followed the rules of copyright law. Always remember to: 1) obtain permission in writing or document the conversation and confirm with a letter outlining the conversation; 2) make sure the person giving you permission has the right to do so; 3) get permission for archival architecture drawings, photographs and documentation; 4) obtain copyright permission, or document the interaction whether the owner cares about it or not; and 5) do not use works for which you are unable to obtain permission”  (Burke, 2009).  Maybe these tips should be visible in every classroom.  Perhaps these tips should be taught to the teachers, too.

Read more: Copyright Laws for Students | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/about_4882063_copyright-laws-students.html#ixzz2JsNQn3Nk

Also read about copyrights and fair use in education:  http://www.ehow.com/facts_6781647_copyrights-_amp_amp_-fair-use-education.html

After such a serious post I wanted to put a fun picture.  So here’s a cat laughing so you should laugh with him.


The above image belongs to rikkis_refuge(no real name given) and was taken on September 23, 2010. I found it on flickr.com, via an advanced google search of images labeled for reuse using the words funny cat.


Works Cited

Coffman, T.  (2013). Using inquiry in the classroom: Developing creative thinkers and information literate students (2nd ed.).  Plymouth, UK: Rowman & Littlefield Education.

Rikkis_refuge (Photographer). (2010). Cat Laughing  [digital photograph], Retrieved January 30, 2013, from http://www.flickr.com/photos/rikkis_refuge/5016931339/.

Burke, Alex. (2009). “Copyright Laws for Students.” EHow. Demand Media.  Retrieved February 03, 2013 from http://www.ehow.com/about_4882063_copyright-laws-students.html.

21st Century vs. Core Knowledge?

January 27th, 2013

Starting off, I feel that the title of the topic, “21st Century Skills vs. Core Knowledge,” already puts a hostile edge to the discussion before it has even truly begins.  There has been a big push for 21st century skills over the years and that seems to be placed at odds with the ideas of core knowledge.  I personally see the benefit of both and am at a loss why there seem to be so many pushing for one way over the other when they MUST be of benefit to each other.  In fact, they should build each other up and not be at contention with one another.

The four C’s of the 21st Century Skills, communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity, are vital to students in today’s day and age.  But, as E. D. Hirsch stated, “The idea that we have to choose between knowledge and thinking skills is a false choice.  Kids need both.”  When kids have the knowledge, they can build on what they know and better use their creativity, and critical thinking skills.  They will be able to collaborate better together and be more capable and confident with their communication skills.  The 21st  Century skills are vital for success in today’s fast paced world, but will be more boldly developed and skillfully used if built on the strong educational foundation of the basics of education.  Technology is an amazing thing and provides numerous opportunities for students to demonstrate, expand, and develop the four C’s – and can be used to reaffirm or strengthen the student’s core knowledge as well.  The world is moving at a faster pace than it ever has before in technological growth.  Not only are these technologies useful to students in developing these 4 C’s, it is also a valuable resource for students learning core information.  Never before has so much information been available to the masses, nor has it ever been so easily accessible.  The conflict I see developing in education among some of my fellow teachers – or even between students and teachers is “Why do I have to learn it?  I can always google it!”  I see the issue as to whether or not the use of technology should completely take the place of students learning the information is a practical argument.  Cursive is a lost art, two plus two equals four is a disappearing skill, and even the dexterity of cutting a line with a pair of scissors or coloring inside the line is no longer a necessary ability.  Or is it?

I have had the opportunity to work in middle school classrooms with students of various levels of understanding.  Though technology is useful it can also become a crutch that when relied upon to much could keep students from fully grasping the foundational necessities such as basic mathematical foundations which are needed for understanding higher level mathematics.  This “walking around-knowledge” that we try to instill in these students can greatly improve and change their perspectives of the world and themselves.  How much more confidence and expectations would they have if they were to know information, if they were to comprehend themselves why certain things work and how to do things rather than simply relying on the internet to supply their knowledge for them.  How can students be expected to do critical thinking if they are unable to think and learn the basic core knowledge.  This is not to say that technology does not have its place with core knowledge.  No, that is an erroneous concept as well.  I feel like rather than fighting each other these two concepts can go hand in hand with one another with technology being used as a TOOL in both arenas.

I can see the value first hand of students knowing and understanding core knowledge, but that doesn’t mean that we disregard 21st century skills, or vice versa.  There are so many concepts these days, but technology provides so many avenues for teachers to pursue new ways to engage students in teaching these concepts.  Rather than be afraid of the 4Cs – or the core knowledge – or technology, as instructors we should embrace ALL angles.  The superior educator will take all possible opportunities to guide our students into development of the 21st Century Skills while still instilling in the students the sense of accomplishment of being able to master the core skills that will have a vital impact on their learning and later in their life.  And that educator will use technology as a tool in the process.


Reference Websites

Partnership for 21st century skills. (2011). http://www.p21.org/

Core Knowledge. (2011). http://coreknowledge.org/

Technology on Integration Matrix

January 24th, 2013

The educational classroom, as well as society in general, is becoming more and more technologically advanced.  The role that technology plays in the education system is also becoming more diverse, with the possibilities and implications so numerous they can be overwhelming to someone not versed in their use.  Modern technology ranges from the simple ‘one computer per class’ to the new and evolving ‘bring your own technology’ policies.  Old-school teachers that have problems adjusting to change will have a more drastic learning curve than the up and coming generation.

Something that made me raise my eyebrows just recently about technology is the ‘Bring your own technology’ policies that are evolving in Stafford school system that will determine what the classroom of tomorrow will look like.  On one side, I can see how this could be beneficial in engaging the students for even something as simple as a short quiz.  By posting the questions on a slide show they can text the answers to a designated number and the quiz will be automatically graded for the instructor for immediate feedback.  I like the site www.t.socrative.comwhere students can access an online quiz or entry review – or exit check using a smartphone, iPod, iPad, laptop, etc. Students will also be able to use their phones or technology in class to research information for an in-class essay which would save on time and money of the school to procure more computers for the students to use.  I feel like this technology movement would fall into the matrix grid of Active Adoption.  The down side of this rising controversial topic is the opening the door to students bringing their cell phones into the classroom and all of the possible issues that can arise as a result.  The distraction that they can cause when not being used for the designated educational purposes, the texting, phone calls, research at inappropriate times (ex – during a test) are just some of the negative questions that come to the forefront of discussions.  In addition, there is the most glaringly obvious concern – the underprivileged student.   What about those students who are unable to bring their own technology because of their family’s socio-economic status?  Will the school provide them with the necessary technology?  There are numerous points on both sides of the coin in the decision making debate and will all have to be weighed by the policy makers.

A use of technology used in teaching that I have seen firsthand is the use of an iPad in a computer business- keyboarding class.  This integration I feel falls best under the Active Adaptation matrix cell.  The iPad is connected directly to the teacher’s desktop computer and can interact with the desktop and utilities remotely from around the classroom.  This removed the teacher from behind the podium and allowed him to maneuver around the classroom which had the added affect of aiding in classroom management.  What the technology was used for was for inputting grades, which allows for a less formal assessment of the students skills.  The instructor is able to observe the students progress and work without test style assessment and be able to accurately score the information on the computer.  Not only does this aid the instructor in providing a more affluent way to do assessment but it also allows the instructor to be out in the classroom and engaged with the students during instruction.  Through the iPad and the connection to the main computer, the teacher can manipulate the screen and what appears on the screen at the front of the class (which also happens to be a smartboard).  In addition, this class had a software program that is on the classroom computers called Syncroneyes which allows the instructor to broadcast what he is doing on his computer to all the other computers in the classroom.  This aids instruction as the students do not have to strain or move to see the smart board but can see the examples being done on their own screens.  This program is able to be manipulated through the IPad continuing to allow the maneuverability of the instructor around the classroom.

It was a little difficult to see where these examples fit into the matrix exactly, especially the IPad because it was more of an instructional technology for the instructors use versus the students at this setting.  That being said, I am also beginning to visualize the use of the iPad in the standard classroom with a class set.  The numerous educational apps, which is constantly growing in number, just shows the tip of the iceberg for the future classroom.

Technology is not going away and will only be integrated into our various work environments deeper and more extensively as time goes on.  It is vital that we adapt and take advantage of all that these various technological opportunities.  We can’t fear the technology but have to embrace the opportunities it provides.  We need to strive to be technologically savvy as we work to advance our students in the technological society that they will be living in.  It is key that our students do more than just survive the world they have been brought into, but advance and improve the world.  The only way this can happen is if we as educators model life-long learning and strive to make them life-long learners of a technology driven world that, instead of slowing down, is speeding forward at an unbelievable rate.