Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Course Reflection

Instructional Media Final Reflection

This course has given me a bit of a paradigm shift. I’ve realized the way I have the kids communicate and create their work can teach an important skill as relevant as the course information. Technology is a part of the modern college experience and today’s workplace, and I can give them two types of knowledge (English and Digital Competence) that can benefit their lives – all at the same time! That seems to be the heart of what this course is about. There are other lessons as well. We have added to our knowledge of how to diversify our lessons so we can reach all types of learners. We now know how to add creative content to our lesson plans. These are all good things!

I really found every project very useful, especially the Webquest. I really like the idea of guided discovery on the computer. I’ve always been nervous just turning my junior high students loose on the internet, but this is a way to scaffold computer research.

Over the past year-and-a-half I have been struggling on how to handle student papers. They are constantly being lost or turn up missing with those famous last words, “I turned it in yesterday! I swear I did!” I’ve had kids sign in their papers and make copies, but it still happens more than I like. Blogs and Google Docs have really opened my eyes on how the kids can create digital portfolios and this might clear up the problem!

I also appreciated learning about cyber-ethics. I really was in the dark about what was legal and ethical and what was not. I don’t think this information will make my life easier (ignorance is bliss…) but it certainly will help me with my cyber-karma.

I can see why this class is required because it has made such a huge impact on me. Without a course like this I never would have seen how many tools are available. When I see how I’ve taken big strides forward with the NET goals, I just can’t believe the difference in my feelings towards technology in my classroom. I also think the idea of being a reflective practitioner, number nine in the INTASC standards, is important. I can’t let myself get in a rut of the same-old lessons taught in the same-old way. Technology forces you to keep learning because it is both addictive and always changing. I will be forced to be a life-long-learner if I’m using technology in my classroom. It also forces me to me creative in my lesson plans. The digital world has a million options out there for every concept I want to teach.

So now I just need to go out there and do it. I have big, big plans. I’ve coordinated with my school director to make sure each student can have his or her own laptop at least a few days a week. I recognize this has the potential for big failures. I hate when a lesson plan that depends on a digital tool goes wrong. As a teacher, you feel really stupid when you’re trying to fix computer problems instead of actually teaching.

I know I will be using the WebQuest I created for this class and I am going to have the kids set up iGoogle pages and create a blog. I may use this as a digital portfolio, or I may use Micrsoft Office Workspace. I would like to create two new WebQuests: one for the first day of class and one to teach the juniors and seniors about research papers. I have an assignment planned where the students write about where they live. I’m going to have them use Google maps with the satellite setting to see their house and street as they are brainstorming. The biggest change/risk in my teaching style is having the kids turn in all their writing assignments digitally instead of on paper. I don't know if the kids will love it or hate it. I would guess it will be a bit of both.

I know I will encounter problems. I am still really, really inexperienced. There isn’t any program or product that I am completely secure on. One professional goal is to keep working with these programs until I am comfortable. I need to be able to think on my feet and problem solve. That is my mastery goal. My second professional goal to stay current with the newest tools. I’ve subscribed to the Education World weekly newsletter and I need to read it with a special attention to the section about tech integration. I’ve got to have fun with technology! If I have a good view of my tech self-efficacy it will be my friend, not my enemy.

Google Tools Reflection

Documents: I’m just getting to know Google Docs, and I’m sure it will be something I use often, both in the classroom and for personal purposes. In the classroom we could build a master set of ideas that result in group brainstorming. By having it on Google Docs, all the kids can have access to it as they complete their own writing. It would also be a good place to keep a tally of group goals, such as number of collective words written, or books read. It would be a fun way to have a pass-around story. Each student could add two sentences to the ones that came before and see where the story goes! Personally I like having a place to put my work when I am going to be using different computers. Normally, I email myself my documents, but this way I simplify the process. I also like being able to store handouts and story examples that I have generated in a place this doesn’t depend on a my computer’s health.

Presentations: It’s nice to have access to a presentation program that isn’t dependent on a computer’s software. I do like PowerPoint better, but this would be really helpful if I quickly need to create something that needs to be accessible on another computer, or needs to be seen by a group of people. I think the kids could put together quick google presentations for persuasive speeches they might give. It would be a good way to explain an assignment step-by-step and have it available on the class website. This could be a practical tool if I am creating a quick visual aid for the class when they are working in groups. Each group could go through the presentation at their own speed. This would be an excellent way to build a lesson plan just for myself (not for projection) so it could be saved for future use.

Spreadsheets: Just like the presentation tool, I like the fact that this isn’t dependent on a computer’s software, but I do like Excel better. The simplicity would be an asset for many kids who might get overwhelmed by all of the options in Excel. This also has the ability to work for group projects. If I have a group of kids creating a rubric or making a chart, this would be a good tool so they could work communally, even if they are at home. I often price things out for the school and then have to present the findings to the school board. This would be a good tool because it could be linked into the published minutes.

Forms: I really like this feature. What a great way to make a quiz or test a little more interesting! I also like that a quiz can be given as homework and the students email you their answers. This would be a great way to guide the kids with their reading. I could give them a list of quotes and they would need to identify who was the speaker. This could act as a type of study guide and then it could act as a quiz the next day. I definitely need to explore this with more depth.

Calendar: I had the goal to really utilize the Google calendar this term, but I failed to achieve it. I really do think it would be a great asset to staying organized, but I struggle to make it part of my daily ritual. I think it is the perfect tool for keeping both a student schedule and a personal schedule. I like that it can be published, but in a way that some details are public while others are private. I want to encourage that my kids each have an iGoogle site and make this is part of their page.

iGoogle: I love iGoogle. I do use this everyday and have found it incredibly valuable. I like that I can post to my blogs from this site and that I can see my emails from the front page. I keep my to do list on iGoogle and I could share this with others if I was working on a group project. Like I mentioned previously, I am going to encourage each student gets an iGoogle page and recommend certain gadgets, some that would be helpful, like a vocabulary word of the day, or fun, like the “Yo’ mama” jokes.

Blogger: The blogger gadget has been my favorite thing on the iGoogle site. It saves me so much time when I am having to blog my responses and reflections. If I have the kids create a blog, I will insist they have both an iGoogle page and this gadget. Simplifying the process of adding to a personal page makes it that much more likely a student will write. It would be very fun to create a class that is built around the idea of blogging and this would be a very useful tool!

Reader: I was very interested in the reader gadget when I first set up my iGoogle page, and I included a few of the blogs that I found interesting in the past and added the blog my son’s class created while they were on their trip to Seattle. The unfortunate thing is that I have been just too busy to read anything (except my son’s blog, of course). I haven’t played with this feature, but I look forward to figuring it out. This could be a great way to get students to read personal essays. If I found a list of well-written and student-appropriate blogs, the kids could choose one or two to follow and that could be a daily or weekly reading assignment. If I had a class that was about writing movie reviews, I could have them follow a few movie-review blog, or if it is a class about journalism, I can provide a list of a few influential online journalists.

Google Maps: Google maps is one of the most amazing things online. The ability to go to the satellite feature and get closer and closer to an actual picture of a city is fascinating. The aspect that really blows my mind is when you go to the street view and can virtually walk down the street and look at the houses. This would be a great tool to see where a story takes place or where an author grew up. Google maps could also be a great way to generate an idea and description of setting. If a student wants a story to take place in New York City, he can just Google map it and walk around New York, catching the sights as if he was there. What a great way to get details for writing!

Google Earth: My computer doesn’t have the capability to use Google Earth (I can’t download the 3D program without approval of the school director), so I haven’t had the ability to explore it for myself. From the description it sounds like this tool would be a great way to experience a visual and informational tour of the world. Just like Google Map it would be a great way to explore setting and to understand the cultural details of any region.

Groups: I’m currently part of four groups on Google groups –all that have to do with either being a parent or teacher at Walden School. Unfortunately, I don’t use these groups in a really productive way. I still would rather communicate by mass email, a method that isn’t really effective. In an earlier reflection I wrote that I would like to find a way to more effectively communicate with parents. This could be a good way to do that. This could also be a good way to be in touch with the students as a large group if I want to avoid Facebook and the complications of “friending” students.

Google Search Engine: I use the Google search engine many times every day. I can’t imagine life without the ability to “Google” to find what I am looking for. I even use the search page as a way to quickly spell-check since it so quickly gives me completed word options as fast as I can type. The students know how to use Google Search in a really basic way, but it would be extremely helpful to show them how to use the advanced search. I need to re-educate myself on some of the tricks to find very specific information.

Notebook: Google Notebook seems like a handy little tool and could be very useful with group work. I like the fact that you can actually get the information you write there onto your phone. It is a bit hard to see exactly how it is different than Google docs at first sight. I’ve never used this, except for this very fast exploration, and I definitely want to see how this works. It does seem a bit more portable than other applications, which would be useful for helping students with project planning and time management. Of course, this is something that I could use some help with as well!

Scholar: I would definitely include the Google Scholar search engine in a WebQuest that teaches students how to get information for a research paper. There are so many ways to specify what type of data you are looking for. Despite all it has to offer, I seldom use this feature because I like the UVU library site so much and can find almost all that I need on the Academic Premier Database or the JSTOR database. The frustration I have with Google Scholar is that so many of the articles are only available if you pay a lot of money for them. I haven’t been able to find a box to check if I don’t want those types of sources included. I would hate to somehow indicate that I expected a student to pay large amounts of money to get the information they are looking for.

Google Documents, Forms, Calendar, iGoogle, Blogger, Reader, Maps, Search Engine, and Scholar Search Engine are all great tools that I plan on using in my classroom. There are so many ways to use each of these, from organizational tools to student projects. I can’t wait to have the kids find their houses on Google map when we do the essay on where they live. I do want the kids to set up a blog so it can act as a portfolio of their work and create an iGoogle account so they can have an easy access when posting to their blog through Blogger and so they can follow another blog that is interesting to them through Reader. I think this will create authentic writing and reading experiences. I will keep a schedule on the Google calendar that’s on my website, so I need to get more fluent when working with this application. Google docs would be good for group work. If I am trying to create digital student portfolios, this will be important when they work with peers on a project. This will be especially useful when the kids are doing their diversity WebQuest. I don’t think my junior high students will use the Google regular search engine and scholar search engine very much this year, but I do want to create a WebQuest for the juniors and seniors to help guide them through the research paper process. I will definitely include tips on how to use these tools to their fullest.

Google Presentations and Spreadsheets feel inferior to Powerpoint and Excel, and the student computers have these two programs, so I don’t think I will introduce this technology unless a project demands it. I need to experience Google Earth, but if I don’t have the necessary program on my computer, I’m sure the students won’t either. I can see myself using Google Groups to communicate with other teachers, or possibly with parents, but I don’t think I will introduce it to the classroom if they already have a personal blog, Google docs, and a class website. I don’t want to create a cognitive overload!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Digital Storytelling Reflection

I had a lot of fun creating my digital story. This is the kind of thing I would do for fun, if I ever had a spare moment. This assignment gave me a very, very basic knowledge of iMovie and Garage Band, but I do think I could get comfortable with those programs with more experience. I’m still somewhat unsure how to create digital stories that communicate messages that are so important that they are worth the amount of time it requires to build a digital presentation. If I create a story on a single literary movement, author, or convention, I don’t think I would use it enough to warrant the effort it takes to create it.

This process does seem like a great way to get the kids to express themselves. I can definitely see myself giving the students an assignment to make a digital story of their own. I couldn’t do that if I didn’t have the skills to make one myself. I also would like to teach a class on writing scripts and filming movies. I know I could piece together a short film with these tools.

I can see how using digital stories and having the students create their own accomplishes the INTASC standard of adding instructional variety. I’m grateful for any new tools that help me achieve the NETS goals of facilitating and inspiring student learning and creativity. If I show the students how to create a digital story I add to the development of digital-age learning experiences and assessments and by showing the students my story I am modeling digital-age work and learning. I don’t think this tool is a huge leap forward in these areas, but it is a good step in the right direction.

I’m pretty happy with the digital story I created. The audio isn’t a good quality, and I would like to go back and fix that. I do think it teaches a concept that is applicable to a wide range of classes and students, so it is more than a one time-use material. I really did like the process and the creativity it required.

I would like to know how to encourage students to create projects that are deeply reflective. This would help with the goal of creating developmental knowledge. I tend to rely on writing as the main expression of a student’s inner thoughts, but it would be meaningful if they could use technology, a format most kids enjoy more, to help them with their identity versus role confusion stage. I need to ask the students to brainstorm how they can express an idea that is meaningful through digital storytelling. I suspect that they will have some great ideas.

I do need to get more comfortable with this skill so I better model the use this technology. I strongly suspect that I’ll forget the details of both the programs I used if I don’t build on what I’ve learned. There are instructional videos I can watch and experts I can talk to. I can’t let myself learn a little and then feel I can stop there. This project should be based on a mastery goal, not a performance goal.

WebQuest Reflection

This WebQuest experience has been really helpful. I never considered using a web-based project like this and hadn’t thought how a guided project could help model the research process. I’m sure most students don’t even know what great materials are available on the web. After experiencing a good WebQuest there should be no reason to just go to Wikipedia and stop there. I use the idea of modeling and scaffolding in almost all the aspects of teaching, so I’m excited that I can bring this method into technology-based assignments.

I will be using the multicultural WebQuest in my middle school classroom and I’ve already coordinated with the school’s director to make sure I will have enough computers available. I want to build a WebQuest for the senior research paper, so the kids can go to different sites to find articles on their chosen topics. It seems like most students struggle with the process of building a strong research paper and a guided “tour” could be useful. I am contemplating a very quick and fun webquest for the first day or two of class for my junior high kids. We are focusing on the memoir, so I might have them build an “about me poster” that includes what their name means, a quick history of where they live, and some basic facts about their hobbies. I think iWorks could be a good place to create this poster. I am worried about the potential technological gremlins that can creep into the mix, so I’m a bit nervous about this new adventure. Using computers on this level will be very new for me.

Working with Emily on this Webquest was great. I know Emily from past English classes, and I’ve always been impressed with her personality, intelligence, and work ethic. We got together at my house to plan this project and together we came up with an outline and websites that promised to be engaging and interesting for the students. It was a shame that Emily had obligations during the week this was due, but it was not an insurmountable problem. I got the project started and when she returned we got right back to work. Emily put in a lot of time as we finished this assignment. The WebQuest grew, and grew, and grew. I’m a little overwhelmed by the size, but I didn’t want to cut any corners knowing that I was going to use it in my own classroom. I’m proud of the project and am curious how the kids will react.

I feel like I’ve grown in three of the INTASC standards: Instructional Adaptability, Instructional Variety, and Learning Environment. I have a whole new set of tools to add to my curriculum. This project and this class has convinced me that teaching kids how to use technology in a productive and mature way is as a real-world skill that can benefit all aspects of their education.

Going back to the NETS page was a totally different experience than when I first read it. When I saw the goals and expectations there, I almost wanted to cry. It seemed completely impossible. I was proud that I used YouTube clips in the classroom. I remember wondering how to add all these elements to an English classroom. Now it seems possible. By having the kids create a digital “about me” page I accomplish #1: Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity. My Webquest accomplishes #2: Design and Develop Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments. The fact that I’ve designed and created the webquest and the digital shows I’ve accomplished #3: Model Digital-Age Work and Learning. The internet ethics media campaign I designed will be used in the middle school CTE classes this year, so I’ve indirectly taught the students about #4: Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Responsibility. I also will be sure to discuss copyright laws as we work on our projects. The last element is something that time will tell. Will I stop here and stick with what I’m familiar with? I hope not. If I make technology a part of my classroom, I must keep up with current tools. So I’m going to answer “yes” to number #5: Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership. Look at me! I’ve got a great start!

There are two goals I would like to work on for the future and they both fall under the INTASC standard of Community Relations. I wonder if there isn’t technology out there that can make communication between the parents and myself more effective. Our websites are a good tool, but we looked at it mainly as pertained to the students. Is there I way to manipulate emails so I can send out mid-term reports more easily? I would love to figure out how to store and manipulate email lists. I would also like to know how to send calendar updates to parents on a regular basis.

I also would like to know how to better communicate with my fellow teachers. I would like to find ways to do online meetings and coordinate curriculum so we build on each other’s efforts. Could we build an online collection of lesson plans? Could we create a “dictionary” of shared terms? Clearly there are things I still need to learn and I’ve got to research to find the options out there. There are scholarly journals that are geared to using technology in the classroom. There are online newsletters and UEN resources. I just have to keep asking questions and looking for answers.


Emily and Gwen's Webquest: Multicultural Voices

Wednesday, June 16, 2010