Week 10: New Technologies

November 1, 2013

This week in class, we had reading and discussion about new technologies and virtual worlds. I would have to say that I’m slightly apprehensive about using virtual worlds within my classroom. Let me explain, if we are comparing virtual worlds with the real world, there might be inconsistencies. For example, in the video from ImmersiveED (2012) located on Canvas that we watched, the speaker mentions a virtual world in which students can take sample of a lake to determine why certain fish are dying. If this is a virtual world created by humans, how do we know that we didn’t miss something? Perhaps the fish died due to someone dumping some sort of substance into the water that was not something the program would let us test for.


I’m probably looking deeper into virtual worlds or examining more closely than I should be. Also, to use Dr. Coffman’s example, what if we give students in a virtual classroom prescribed behaviors and they act as “a person should” in a particular situation. We all know, that life is sometime unpredictable so while Johnny might typically be the boy with emotional disturbance that calls out in class, he might not be like that on one particular day.


I guess what I’m trying to say is that the world is not predictable and I feel as though virtual worlds might simplify complex issues. These issues might be questions that we don’t yet have the answer to. It’s not that I don’t believe in virtual worlds but I think that we should explain to our students and caution them that the virtual world we are immersing them in is not real. As teachers, we should mention that the world is based on current assumptions about how the world works.


With that being said, I really like the idea of virtual worlds. I’ve seen virtual simulation software in use at my school. I’m a teaching assistant in a science classroom. Before the teacher taught her lesson on atoms and atomic particles she had the students explore a website that had the first 10 or so elements in the period table. The students had a proton, neutron, and electron buffet (there were bowls of each subatomic particle) and they were able to add each particle one by one to see what happened to the element. Therefore, they were able to see that protons changed the element from one element such as hydrogen to helium by adding a proton. They could also observe that adding more neutrons than protons would make the element unstable and that adding or subtracting electrons would make the element positively or negatively charged. This really helped students grasp the concept of atoms and subatomic particles before we even started the lesson.


So to sum up my feelings about virtual worlds, I believe that we must be careful to explain to students that the virtual worlds are based on the current assumptions that we have about our world.  Creating virtual worlds seem very difficult to me because you have to take into account all the oddities of normal life and attempt to create a world that is realistic as possible. I do believe that it is a substitute for experimentation in the real world but it does not take the place of real world experimentation. However, sometimes it is impossible or very expensive to present every lesson to students in the real world, so virtual worlds can help supplement.



ImmersiveED (2012).  iED 2012 Boston Summit – EcoMUVE. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdsB0EmnEqc&feature=youtu.be

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Week 9: Mini Project II

October 26, 2013

For my second mini project, I have decided to create a Google Lit Trip. This may turn out to be the most difficult route for this assignment. I thought I would try out Google Earth for a Lit Trip because I know that Google Earth fascinates some students, myself included.


So far, creating a Google Lit Trip seems to be a bit difficult and not very intuitive. I looked at several examples during class on Thursday but I still couldn’t quite figure out the placemarks. By this, I mean it took me the whole class period to figure out how to create a placemark and then figure out what to do with it. I don’t consider myself to be too tech savvy but I normally make it by so this was a bit frustrating to me.


My idea for creating a Lit Trip is to take a Young Adult book, Peak by Roland Smith, and create a trip where students can view the earth from the location mentioned in the book. In the book, the main character, Peak, is caught climbing the Woolworth Building in Manhattan that land him in a juvenile detention center. His mountain climbing father, whom he hasn’t seen since he was a young child, comes to his rescue. But his father has something up his sleeve. He wants to gain publicity about his mountain climbing company by having Peak reach the summit of Mount Everest at 14 years old that would make him the youngest person to reach the summit.


My plan for using this technology in a classroom would be to have students read the first 50 pages of the book and then show them the locations mentioned on Google Earth using my Lit Trip. Once the students see the locations, I would have them read the rest of the book and write summaries or create a video or podcast detailing what happens to Peak at each base camp along the way.


I’m not finished with my mini project; I’m still trying to work out the kinks such as how to create a border around a country or location. I’ve picked out my locations and I’m in the process of deciding what I should include at each placemark. I’m thinking about adding videos about climbs and perhaps background information about the locations as well as a short blurb about what happens in the book at each particular location.


What I really like about Google Earth is that people are able to post picture at certain locations and this can help students get a feel for what the area looks like. Also, using features such as Street View can allow students to take a tour of an area that they may not be able to visit, such as Mount Everest or even Washington, DC.

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Week 8: Mini Project I

October 18, 2013



Wordle: Out of My Mind

For this week’s mini project, I originally planned on creating a digital story but I realized within a couple minutes of planning that coming up with a story, even for a short 3-5 minute video, would take me hours of imagination time. Frankly, sometimes I feel like I lack imagination for projects like story telling. Maybe with years of experience improvising stories in the classroom I’ll be able to come up with a 3-5 minute digital story that is creative and fun for students.


I decided to create a word cloud using Wordle. I think that word clouds are interesting and not only because they look like neat graffiti but also because they present an idea using a collection of words and emphasizing the importance with larger fonts. Instead of presenting a summary of a story, I believe word clouds show a visually appealing synapsis of the information presented in a text, discussion, or presentation.


I did my mini project on a book that I am particular fond of, Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. It is a book about a girl, Melody, who has special needs. She has cerebral palsy and she is unable to communicate with her friends, family, and classmates until she receives an assistive technology that allows her to communicate her ideas through a computing device. This book is written on a 4th grade reading level but I believe it is a great book to present to middle school students, especially those with low reading levels so my lesson would be geared to middle school students. This book could also be used as a form of bibliotherapy, which is using literature to help build confidence, compassionate, and understanding for others.


I struggled for a while with my word cloud. I wanted to make it perfect and specific to my interests and goals. My original plan was to try to paste the text into the Wordle software so that I would be able to pull out the words that are represented most in the text. However, the book was not available in the Gutenberg Project and only parts of the book were available on Google Books. Then, I thought I might be put the portions of the book that were available on Google Books into Wordle, but the format is PDF and thus I couldn’t copy and paste. I also tried to post summaries, reviews, and blurbs about the book into Wordle but the words that were coming up just didn’t fit with my view of the book.


After brainstorming a bit with Dr. Coffman, I found an Advanced portion of Wordle which actually allows the creator to decide the words and the size of the words. So I went about writing down words that I associate with the book by searching reviews and summaries myself. From there, I emphasized the words in the book that I found to be most essential to the meaning of the story and background. I put them into the advanced Wordle with the font size beside them and BAM! I had a Wordle. Of course, I did several revisions and changes in font, size, color, and arrangement before deciding on the final product but I was able to customize the information as I saw fit using the advanced option.


So if I were to use word clouds in the classrrom, I think they could be implemented by having students come up with main ideas from a story and presenting them as word clouds. For example, students could read a literature text and pick on the theme and supporting details, then present the theme with a list of words. Once the students have their list of words, they could give each a level of importance and make those words larger on their map.  Teachers can also create these to present topics or help students find the key terms in a story but I think students would really have a good time creating their own word cloud.

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Week 7: Shared Sticky Notes

October 13, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-10-11 at 9.46.27 PM


Before postings from classmates and friends

YES! I love this technology! I love sticky notes, notecards, and small pieces of paper in general to jot down ideas. I’m constantly writing notes to myself and others and sticking them everywhere, what a nice way to keep track of ideas generated in short form.


Before I created my own Padlet, I visited my classmate Phil Lanman’s wall (http://padlet.com/wall/c45ti66ln8) and I was convinced that this technology is awesome. He created a Padlet that allows students to post a picture of the coolest place they’ve ever been on a map background. This could potentially help students learn more about geography, each other, and stimulate classroom conversation about world locations.


For my Padlet, I decided to create a page where students can post their favorite book. The background is a picture of a really old looking open, faced book that I found using Google Advanced Image Search. The only problem that I have with Wallwisher is that I can’t change the style of the sticky notes. Perhaps there is a way to change this, but I wasn’t able to find it.


I sent out an email to my classmates and made a post on my personal Facebook page to try to get participants to post on my Wallwisher. So hopefully, I can get some good feedback about this instructional technology.


After collaborative postings

I really enjoyed creating the Padlet and having people post. It’s unbelievably easy to post; students don’t need an account or anything to post. If this technology was used in the classroom, students could potentially remain anonymous and the teacher could moderate the discussion by approving all sticky notes before they were posted.


It was great to see everyone’s responses to the posting boards. Our class worked really well to pass on the board to everyone and participate in others’ boards.


The only thing that I don’t really like about technology is that it is kind of plain. I don’t think that it’s very visually appealing, at least my board isn’t. I tried to give it more pizzazz, however because I wasn’t able to change the look and feel of the actual sticky notes, it wasn’t as pretty as I would like it to be.  But I think this is part of the appeal of the technology, it doesn’t have very many bells and whistles. Students/participants can go onto the board and post their ideas, quickly and informally. It doesn’t necessarily have to look pretty; it’s more of an idea wall.


This technology could be used to illicit ideas about class concept or feelings about the flow of a class. As I mentioned earlier, students could post anonymously so it could be used as an exit task for class or to review questions from a previous class. Students could potentially use the wall to post questions they have about an assignment as well. Overall, I like Wallwisher and the concept behind it.

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Week 6: To Flip or not to Flip

October 6, 2013


Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/ajc1/8615353879/


In class this week, we took sometime to discuss the idea of the flipped classroom. It’s a different delivery method than we, as teachers and students, are used to but not too far off from the norm. For example, we ask our students to go home and read chapter 7 in the textbook for homework. Then when they come in, we expect them to have understood everything in the chapter and be ready to discuss the ideas. This doesn’t sound too radical to anyone does it? But what if instead of requiring them to read a dense, dry textbook that, depending on their reading speed and comprehension, could take an hour to read without any means of gaging their understanding, instead we asked them to view a 10-15 minute lecture online created by the teacher? This isn’t to say that reading the textbook would be taken out of the curriculum but rather used to supplement learning after the lecture that would allow students to make connections between what they heard and what they read.


I’ve experienced the flipped classroom firsthand. When I was in high school, my teacher was having a hard time presenting all of the information needed for our AP Chemistry course and finding time to allow us to experiment in the classroom. Many of us were struggling with the concepts and trying to make connections with the real world. My teacher went on a search for a way to supplement what we were learning in the classroom with podcasts. She would tell us the topic we would be looking at during the next class and give us a podcast to watch and then we would come to class with a basic understanding of the topic. If we didn’t understand the podcast, sometimes she would play it again and stop to explain when we got confused. She did this, at least to my knowledge, without even knowing about the concept of the flipped classroom. We still had homework from the textbook and worksheets but lectures were given to us for viewing outside of the classroom. The most beneficial part of the flipped classroom for me was that I was able to view the lectures multiple times if I didn’t understand a concept.


If I were to implement the flipped classroom concept into my classroom, I would present new ideas in a short video about 10-15 minutes then ask students to come in with at least 5 questions that they had about the video. These questions could be questions could be about material/concepts that I should review or go into more depth about but I believe the questions could help me gage whether or not my students understood he concepts presented.


Some pros that I see with the flipped classroom are: more one on one time with students, less confusion about homework assignments, more trust with your students- they won’t be struggles on assignments at home alone, student that are absent don’t miss the introduction of new concept, students can listen to the lesson multiple times, and parents can listen to the lesson as well. What I mean by more one on one time with the students is that instead of standing in front of the class dictating a lesson for 45 minutes, teachers can be walking around asking students if they have questions about an assignment. I think that this could promote trust in the classroom because students wouldn’t be at home struggling for hours trying to figure out a question instead they could come into the class with questions.


Some potential problems could be students not doing their homework and lack of technology in the home. A potential solution for students not doing their homework is that they could view the video in class, of course they would miss out on time to complete their assignments but this is already a problem in the classroom so I don’t believe that this would create a huge, new problem. As for lack of technology, teachers could provide a DVD with the lectures on it for a particular unit for the students. If they do not have a DVD player, perhaps the library media center could allow for some type of check out process for students to acquire a DVD player or computer.




Knewton, Inc. (2013). Flipped Classroom. Retrieved from http://www.knewton.com/flipped-classroom/


Miller, A. (2012). Five best practices for the flipped classroom. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/flipped-classroom-best-practices-andrew-miller


Ojalvo, H.E. & Doyne, S. (2011). Five ways to flip your classroom with the New York Times. Retrieved from http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/08/five-ways-to-flip-your-classroom-with-the-new-york-times/?_r=0


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Week 5: Creating a Video

September 27, 2013

This week in class, we dug a little more deeply into our Personal Learning Network tools and started to construct our curricular video. Each day, I’m learning new ways to find information on the Internet. One thing that I believe is different about these tools, such as Twitter and Feedly, is that these sources provide information about the world that I didn’t know I wanted to learn more about. Let me explain. Normally, when I use the Internet I go on to find a specific bit of information, for example I might go to the Internet if I’m looking for how to find the volume of an object. So I would type into Google something and bam! There is the formula for finding volume. However, using tools such as Twitter, I find that I’m presented with information that I was not actively seeking. Some of the information such as what a friend had for breakfast might not be so interesting but other information such as articles about adjunct faculty (something I retweeted from another source this week), I wasn’t actually looking for. I guess this could be called passively finding information. Also, Solomon (2010) had a great way to use twitter by connecting students with professionals all over the world to analyze temperatures in different parts of the world. I’ve used twitter before for another class and I have to say that it’s not my favorite social media outlet probably because I’m not a 140 characters type of person. As you can probably tell by the length of my post, I like to go in depth about things I’m talking about. So maybe the sort bursts of information throw me off. But I think all experience is good experience so I’ll keep an eye on my twitter, maybe I’ll get more interested in it. Plus, I believe it’s good to have an idea of resources our students will use outside of school in case I ever need to address something going on outside of the classroom such as cyberbullying.

Another tool we worked with this week is Animoto. I have to say, I’m really excited about this tool. At the beginning of the semester, I saw that we were creating a curricular video and I thought it would be a video of me giving an introduction of a topic lesson. I’m much more excited about creating a music video to introduce a topic. What a cool thing to do! I’ve seen these types of videos used in the classroom. Every year a school librarian I know creates a video about the book fair complete with quick summaries of books to drum up business and get students interested in books. Students love the videos and they’re a great way to introduce several topics. Also, my 8th grade geography class got to watch videos that introduced human rights. The kids were really engaged in learning more about these topics.

So when I first read about Delicious, I was a little skeptical. I didn’t think that I would find a use for it that related to my needs and interests. Actually, I just started bookmarking pages about a year ago. Before that, I would just type in the website each time I needed to access a particular website. I decided to use bookmarking because I was getting tired of going to a URL such as umw.edu then clicking helpful links then canvas. I wanted a simpler way to get to the webpages I used frequently. Thus, I stepped into the 21st century and started bookmarking. When we started using Delicious, I was thinking that I wouldn’t have any websites to actually put in there. Then I started putting in the direct links to the PLN websites and tagged them PLN.  Now I have all of my PLN websites together under a tag so all I have to go to is Delicious to remember which social media sites I need to go to participate. With one click (on the PLN tag), I can access the important websites thus cutting the time it would take me to remember which sites we are using. Before I did this, I was going back and forth between the Canvas page that says all of the PLN requirements each time I wanted to remind myself about the tools we’re using this semester.

Overall, I’m excited to finish up my curricular video. I’m still in the process of picking out pictures but I have an outline for my video and most of my information is ready to post into Animoto. I’m still working on figuring out an idea about how to use twitter in the classroom and liking the ease of access to links that Delicious provides for me.




Coffman, T. (2013). Using inquiry in the classroom: Developing creative thinkers and information literate students. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Education.

Solomon, G & Schrum, L. (2010). Web 2.0: How-to for educators. Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education.

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Week Four: Information Literacy and Creativity

September 22, 2013

This week in class we started to look at the construction of our personal learning network and we looked into finding and evaluating information that can be found on the Internet. I found our work with social media to be a bit overwhelming because it is easy to spend a great deal of time constructing your social media profile and investigating each social media outlet. One can spend hours delving into the depths of a particular social media website to find information. Finding and evaluating information can be a difficult process especially with the many different forms of documents, media, and resources.

Creating a personal learning network is such a broad idea. It could really be as in-depth or as low key as the particular person wanted to go. There is so much to find on social media it can be overwhelming. This week we started working with Google+, LinkedIn, and the Personal Learning Network of our choice. Although I had used Google+ and LinkedIn before I still had to reacquaint myself with them. I don’t normally use these websites. It’s difficult for me to keep up with so many different social media sites I typically only use Facebook.  I believe this semester will be a good way to get me into using more of these sites for professional usage.

One reading that I found to be interesting this week was the chapter we read about WebQuests (Coffman, 2013). Prior to this class, I had never heard of a WebQuest. Wow, what an interesting concept! I really hadn’t considered how to construct a lesson using the Internet. I had assumed that I would just have my students browse one particular website for information. However, that doesn’t seem very realistic when you think about it. Students will be tasked with finding information online for the rest of their lives and they’re not always going to have me there to tell them whether or not the site is a good resource to use. So I should be teaching students what good and bad websites look like. Plus, students must use many different websites to find information about a particular topic, there’s not going to be one website that is a one-size-fits-all. It’s actually interesting that we covered the topic of WebQuests this week because it was my first experience with them in the classroom as well. My 8th grade science classes were doing a WebQuest this week where they were given a worksheet about matter to fill out using 10 or so different websites.

A resource from this week that I found useful was Kathy Schrock’s (2013) Critical Evaluation of Information. I know how I evaluate websites but trying to communicate that knowledge that I’ve acquired after years of searching for information can be difficult. Kathy Schrock’s questions helped me to learn what questions I should be asking my students to help them evaluate their sources. Questions like, “Is the purpose of the page indicated on the home page?” help the user to look for information within a website that will help them determine a trustworthy site in the future (Schrock, 2013). This site also helped me in creating my website evaluation mind map and creating the mind map allowed me to write down the criteria that I look for in a website. This was helpful because sometimes I evaluate a website without really thinking about the criteria. I already know to look for dates, information about the author, biased information, and so on.



Coffman, T. (2013). Using inquiry in the classroom: Developing creative thinkers and information literate students. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Education.

Schrock, K. (2013). Critical evaluation of information. Retrieved from http://www.schrockguide.net/critical-evaluation.html

Solomon, G & Schrum, L. (2010). Web 2.0: How-to for educators. Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education.

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Week Two: 21st Century Skills vs Core Knowledge

September 5, 2013

When I read the very first article, What to Learn: ‘Core Knowledge’ or ‘21st Century Skills’, I got the feeling that core knowledge and 21st century skills were actually opposing ideas. Toppo (2009) suggests that 21st century skills could be taking away from core knowledge, “But a small group of outspoken education scholars is challenging that assumption, saying the push for 21st-century skills is taking a dangerous bite out of precious classroom time that could be better spent learning deep, essential content.” However when I read the other websites, both The Core Knowledge Foundation and Partnerships for 21st Century Skills, comment on the others’ ideals. Perhaps, since the Toppo article was written in 2009 both sides have realized that they actually do need both core knowledge and 21st century skills to work efficiently in the world.

In the What to Learn: ‘Core Knowledge’ or ‘21st Century Skills’ article the information presented says the Core Knowledge founder E.D. Hirsch Jr. believes that 21st century skills are a waste of time, “It’s an ineffectual use of school time,” says E.D. Hirsch Jr., founder of the Core Knowledge Foundation and author of a series of books on what students should learn year-by-year in school. He calls the P21 movement “a fragmented approach with uncertain cognitive goals” that could most profoundly hurt disadvantaged children: At home, he says, they don’t get as much background as middle-class students in history, science, literature and the like. (Toppo, 2009). The article goes onto include co-founder of Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21), Ken Kay mentioning that both skills are needed, “Kay calls criticisms by Hirsch and others “a sideshow that distracts people from the issue at hand: that our kids need world-class skills and world-class content.” (Toppo, 2009).

I feel as though you can’t exclude one idea from the other. While it is important to learn 21st century skills it is also important to learn core knowledge. According to the Core Knowledge Foundation, “The idea that we have to choose between knowledge and thinking skills is a false choice. Kids need both. “The richer the knowledge base, the more smoothly and effectively cognitive processes — the very ones that teachers target — operate,” notes University of Virginia cognitive scientist Daniel T. Willingham. “So, the more knowledge students accumulate the smarter they become” (The Core Knowledge Foundation, 2013). While Toppo presents the points of view as opposing Partnership for 21st Century folks also agree that core knowledge and 21st century skills should go hand and hand, “within the context of core knowledge instruction, students must also learn the essential skills for success in today’s world, such as critical thinking, problem solving, communication and collaboration” (Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2013).

Perhaps since 2009, The Core Knowledge Foundation has changed their point of view about skills needed to proceed in the 21st century because they clearly state that both ideas are important on their website. Either way, I believe that both need to be presented in the classroom. I believe that to be successful in the future, we must consider both sides that actually don’t seem to be so different after all since both express the need for the other.  As a future special education teacher, I see that language arts are explicitly mentioned throughout the articles. One must have the basic knowledge to communicate their ideas but also learn to think creatively, “In addition to these subjects, we believe schools must move to include not only a focus on mastery of core subjects, but also promote understanding of academic content at much higher levels by weaving 21st century interdisciplinary themes into core subjects.” (Partnership for 21st Century, 2013). I believe that what we’ve learned in class so far about thinking creatively is backed up by the websites so I don’t believe that either organization’s website changes my point of view about including both into my classroom. The Toppo article did make me question if there is room in the classroom for both and I basically concluded that you couldn’t have one without the other. Sure, students can learn core knowledge but if they can’t preform in the 21st arena then their knowledge would be locked up in a tower. Likewise, if you have the skills to think creatively and innovatively, you would theoretically be able to find any information but what would you do with that information if you didn’t have the basic knowledge to use it? I believe that these are coexisting ideas.

Educational Origami. (2013). 21st Century pedagogy. Retrieved from http://edorigami.wikispaces.com/21st+Century+Pedagogy

Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (2013). Framework for 21st Century Learning.  Retrieved from http://www.p21.org/storage/documents/1.__p21_framework_2pager.pdf

The Core Knowledge Foundation (2013). About the curriculum. Retrieved from http://www.coreknowledge.org/about-the-curriculum

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

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