Sunday, December 7, 2014

Digital Toolbox: Reflection

Throughout this course I have had the opportunity to learn about many digital tools that are available to educators.  First and foremost I was impressed and overwhelmed by the technology and resources out there! We are no longer in the days of looking up a lesson plans in a text book or using files that have been stored away in our file cabinets.  So much is at our fingertips waiting to be revealed! 

The TPack framework, SAMR model, and ISTE Standards for Students helped me to realize the importance of really evaluating digital tools.  As an educator there has to be a reason why we use certain tools and digital tools are no different.  For example in the ISTE Standards for Students it states how student’s digital citizenship is one of the key areas teachers should be focusing upon.  Students need these experiences to work collaboratively and build their technology skills in the classroom.

In saying all of this I am thrilled to say that I now have my very own digital toolbox.  I have seen firsthand the benefits of having a digital toolbox upon my student’s learning and my teaching performance.  I have already used so many of the tools that are in my digital toolbox and will continue to use them on a daily basis.  I know that I will continue to add resources to my digital toolbox in the future-I can only imagine what it will look like in a few years!  These resources will aid in my students learning by increasing their knowledge of technology and allowing them to use the technology in their everyday lives. 

I have also thought about having each of my students create their own digital toolbox.  This has helped me tremendously and I think will help them to grow as a student and will greatly benefit their education throughout the rest of their lives.  

Take a look at a snapshot of my digital toolbox:

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Digital Portfolios

There are many benefits to using eportfolios in online learning environments.  Take a look at the amazing opportunities eportfolios provide for students:

- Provides a great self-assessment through the reflection process
 -Builds confidence: their self-esteem and self-confidence will grow as they take control of their      learning
- They develop their own goals for their learning
- They will have a record of personal learning and documentation
- The use of technology enables the use of many types of media such as video, sound, etc.
- They can be carried throughout the students learning journey and used to record, assess, evaluate, and reflect at any time

There can also be some challenges of using eportfolios in online learning environments.  Take a look below at some of the challenges in using eportfolios:

-When beginning an e-portfolio it can be very time consuming
- It can be hard to find the right system or approach
-Technical problems/support
-Students may not have the technology skills needed to select, collect and reflect on material

I personally feel that eportfolios are incredibly beneficial to students.  In my first grade classroom my students have their own data notebooks.  However, after learning and researching about eportfolios I am strongly convinced they are the way to go!  I am fortunate enough to have a 1:1 ipad classroom so the students have all the technology they need!  I’m sure it will take a little while to teach the students how to manage their eportfolios but I feel the benefits far outweigh the challenges eportfolios present.  To begin the eportfolio process I am going to have the students document their current reading level by recording themselves reading their leveled reader.  They will explain what they are reading, the level of the book, and skills we have been focusing on in the classroom.  They will use screencastOmatic for this or the video function on the iPad.    Students will also document their pre and posttest math scores in their eportfolios as well as their progress on their sight words.  The students will need constant feedback on their eportfolios so not only will I provide this feedback but I will also have students review each other’s portfolios to provide detailed feedback.

Below I have listed a few of the tools that are helpful in creating eportfolios! 




Saturday, November 15, 2014

Online Environments : Interaction and Community-Building

Research on Interaction and Community-Building

Many articles have been written pertaining to online environments and the importance of interaction and community-building within these environments.  I have had the opportunity to review two articles pertaining to this topic which include Herring and Clever-Schmertzing’s article, Online High School World History:  Does Interaction Make a Difference? and Shakelford and Maxwell’s article, Contribution of Learner-Instructor Interaction to Sense of Community in Graduate Online Education.  In reading these articles I have come to the conclusion that it is evident that interaction does play an important role in learning in an online environment.  In Herring and Clever-Schmertzing’s article many researchers were quoted in making comments that students seek to develop interpersonal relationships and that building a learning community with their peers is important. In Shakelfod and Maxwell’s article it speaks more from a standpoint of the online instructor and the great importance of students having a multiple ways of communicating with the instructor and peers.   However, although having a great deal of interaction and community building strategies for students positively  influences their perceptions of online learning, the research I have read in the above articles states that it appeared to have little impact on performance.  In my opinion, I feel it does have a large impact on student performance-how can that be truly measured?

My Experience in Online Learning
I am going to be completely honest -I have had some really great experiences in interaction in online learning environments and some that have just been horrible!  My most recent experiences have been fantastic.  I have constant interaction with my peers, I am able to communicate with them daily and feel like I have a sense of community within my class.  To be honest I think this all has to do with the professor and how they structure the class and lead by example.  In my current online course we are using the Canvas site which has been amazing.  My teacher gives constant feedback, we have multiple opportunities for interaction and we even have “live” class meetings. 
On the other hand, in the past I had a pretty negative experience with an online class.  Part of the problem was that the course was very disorganized and half of the time when we tried to meet online the program would not work.  There was little opportunity for peer discussion and interaction and I felt very frustrated with the course. 
Sometimes it’s good to have the positive and negative experiences in order to appreciate what good online teaching, learning, and interaction looks like!

My Future Plans
As so many of us do, we use our past to help shape who we are and how we will live our lives in the future.  My previous experiences with online learning environments will help me greatly in building interactively into the design of future courses.  I plan on creating very open and inviting courses in which students feel they are valued and are within a learning community.  I will ensure that I am organizing my courses in a way which are user friendly and I will constantly and consistently work on fostering peer relationships!

Check out this link for a great youtube video on building positive online environments!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Learning Objects and Authoring Tools- Why Use Them?

Learning Objects and Authoring Tools- Why Use Them?

Learning objects and authoring tools are extremely important and beneficial for teachers to use in their classrooms.  The learning objects are created by using authoring tools.  By using authoring tools teachers can open up a whole new world of learning for their students.  Interactive learning objects are pertinent for blended learning classroom environments and online teaching environments.  Let’s review some ways in which learners can benefit from interactive learning objects.

Easy and Fun to Use
Learning objects are easy and fun to use.  Students and even adults love the interactive and eye catching learning environment that learning objects present.  Learning objects are different from the everyday lesson administration.  For example, check out a learning object that could be created by Prezi, an authoring tool. 

Promotes Higher Level Thinking
Many times learning objects contain interactive information which is built in multiple layers.  These layers build upon one another and can be compared, contrasted and enhanced.  For example I had created a Thinglink (which is another authoring tool) which pertained to fairy tales.  This Thinglink started off with the students just creating their own fairy tale story in Microsoft word.  However, it continued to build and one step after another promoted the students higher level thinking skills.  The students not only created their story but then were comparing their stories to fairy tales in other countries and they would eventually Skype with a class from another country as well!
Check out the thinglink I referenced here!

Customized Learning
By creating learning objects teachers can easily differentiate their teaching for every child in their classroom.  The learning objects can be customized to the learning styles of each child and can be applied to the specific objectives each child needs to master.  Take a look at these specific examples of learning objects-  they are amazing!

As you have read, you can see how important learning objects are to educators.  They are easy and fun to use, they promote higher level thinking and help teachers to customize their students learning! 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Once Upon a Time...

Storytelling is such an important part of every child’s education and is being brought to new heights.  Have you ever heard of Digital Storytelling?  Well if you have not you are in for a treat!  Digital storytelling is a 21st century skill every classroom teacher should be incorporating in their lessons. 

For example, in my current teaching/learning environment I would use digital storytelling to keep the students highly engaged in their learning.  The students in my class will have the opportunity to develop higher order thinking skills and reading skills.  Digital storytelling will also help my students in my blended learning classroom to collaborate and learn new technology that they can use in the future.  Students can create stories together based about the skill they are learning in their guided reading groups.

Not only can digital storytelling be beneficial to students in a “physical” classroom, but also in an online teaching and learning environment as well.  Digital storytelling can be used for students to create their own stories online as well as comparing and sharing their stories with others in other cities, states, countries, etc.In my Blended Learning Classroom I have begun a Project Based Learning project with my first grade students.  The students are becoming pen pals with students in Uganda and forming valuable relationships with the students.  Eventually we will be raising money to aide in building a school in Uganda as well.  One way I would use digital storytelling in my classroom for this project would be for my students to create digital stories about their culture to share with the students in Uganda.  What an amazing opportunity this would be for not only my students but the children in Uganda as well. 

Take a look at a few digital storytelling tools you can use in your classroom.  I am looking forward to incorporating these tools in my classroom throughout the rest of the school year and for years to come!  


Thursday, September 25, 2014

I have finally joined the world of Twitter!  (It's about time isn't it?!)  I can't believe what I have been missing!  Throughout the last week I have had the opportunity to create, sustain, and cultivate my learning network and all I can say is WOW!  What an incredible amount of resources now at my fingertips.  
My first experience with Twitter actually began in 2012.  Although I set up a Twitter account I never really "dug" into what all it has to offer.  To the right is a snapshot of what my Twitter page looked like from 2012 until last week. I just did a shot of my personal information to show how very little I was doing on Twitter! Pretty sad looking isn’t it?!

Well…I sure have learned a lot about Twitter!  First of all I never realized how important creating a learning network is as an educator.  So many times I need new, fresh ideas in the classroom.  Of course I always talk to my grade level to get their ideas and insights but now I have teachers from different parts of North Carolina, other states and even outside the country to steal ideas from! 

In order to really build my page up I needed to do some “cosmetic” work.  My Twitter page was very dull and did not advertise myself as an educator.  Here is my updated information-what do you think?  
As you can see I went from following six people to forty-two!  I can only imagine how many more people I will be following and gaining valuable insight from in the days, months and years to come! 

I could not wait to get started tweeting.  In the beginning it was easier for me to retweet.  This is when you pretty much tweet what another person or organization has tweeted previously.  Here is my first retweet! 

Retweeting this allows me to share what I am learning with other professionals.  After retweeting I knew it was time for me to take the plunge and tweet out myself! 

This past week my school is having training through the Buck Institute on Project Based Learning.  So I thought why not see if they have a page?  I did a search and found exactly what I was looking for. How powerful is it to apply what you are currently learning?!  I figured this was a perfect way to begin my tweeting experience!  J

This is only the beginning in the world of Twitter.  It is so easy to use, a tremendously valuable resource and fun way to create, sustain my learning network.  Now I find myself constantly signing onto Twitter! 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

ISTE Teacher Standards

    The ISTE standards for teachers identifies the five standards which all teachers should meet in their instruction presentation. Below I have constructed a rubric for evaluating a colleague who works diligently to meet the needs of students through various modes of technology.  

    Each of the standards include four performance indicators. The rubric focuses on the amount of performance indicators this individual has met. Every rating includes strengths and weaknesses of the teacher and suggestions to strengthen his performance.

                                      Rating Scale for ISTE Standards:  Teacher Observation

1:  Meets 1
 of the performance
2:  Meets 2
 of the
3:  Meets 3
 of the
4:  Meets 4
 of the performance
Standard 1:
Facilitate and Inspire Student learning and Creativity

3- This teacher strives to engage students in real-world issues and problem solving methods while modeling innovative thinking and inventiveness. He encourage students to think outside the box and to use many different resources when presenting information.
*Needs to work on engaging in learning with his colleagues face-to-face and in virtual environments. An activity which could aid in this area would be using Moodle.  Moodle is an interactive discussion thread which could engage students and peers.

Standard 2:
Design and Develop Digital Age Learning Experiences and Assessments

2- This teacher designs and adapts relevant learning experiences using digital tools and resources such as the aquos board.  He provides a technology-enriched learning environment however the majority of the time it is centered to the entire class rather than individual students. 
*One areas he needs to work on is with formative and summative assessments. 

Standard 3:
Model Digital Age Work and Learning

3- This teacher demonstrates fluency in technology systems and models effective use of current and emerging digital tools.  He does a good job communicating new and innovative technology to students.
*He needs to work on collaborating more effectively with parents and community members.  An example of an activity which could be done to improve this would be to create a monthly newsletter to post on the schools website.  This could be posted on Glogster which will help to inform parents on what is going on in the classroom! 

Standard 4:
Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Responsibility

2- This teacher is a member of the Technology Team at our school so he models and teaches others about the proper digital etiquette.  *In this area he needs to work on addressing the diverse needs of all learners with student centered strategies.  He could also increase in this area of performance by developing and modeling global awareness with colleagues and students of other cultures. 

Standard 5:
Engage in Professional  and Leadership

3-This teacher participates and exhibits leadership within on school building.  As stated earlier he is a member of the technology team within our school system and is a member of the Media and Technology Advisory Council.  He is constantly sharing with others his knowledge of current research and professional practices.
*This standard includes participating in not only local but global learning communities as well.  In one way he could increase his performance in this standard is by participating in global learning communities.

This teacher is effective in integrating technology in his classroom on a daily basis. He does have areas in which he needs to go a little deeper to meet the needs of students, peers and community members.
All teachers need to take a look at the ISTE standards to ensure they are being an effective teacher who models and applies the standards throughout their daily instruction!