Course 5

Course 5 Final Project ~ Teaching Kids to Design Webpages in a Flipped Mastery-Learning Classroom

Wow, I can’t believe I’m finally done.

I’ll be honest, this project took me much longer than I anticipated.  In fact, I am turning it in really, really…really late. Since it was my first time doing the lesson, I had no idea how long it would take me, and the students, to complete the work.  But it’s done now, and I’m really proud of the finished result.  My intention was to create a 5 minute video but it accidentally ended up 11:30 (I’m so sorry…) so I must have had a lot to say. (and I cut a ton out too!)

For my final project, I decided to design a “game” for my my 8th grade technology students where they could work through the levels–the end goal being able to create and style basic webpages.

I helped them achieve this goal by providing them with:

  • instructional videos
  • worksheets to take notes
  • activities (missions) to allow them to create webpages
  • quizzes to check their understanding
  • a framework through Moodle in which subsequent actives were not accessible until the previous activity was 100% complete

It takes a plan:

  • Since I created this unit from scratch, I’ll be honest, I had no idea what I was doing.  Sometimes I felt like I was just keeping my head above water, barely staying afloat.  I started with 16 lands, but had to cut it down to 12, both because of time and because I realized four of the original things I wanted to teach were too complicated or unnecessary for my students.
  • I INTENDED on assigning badges to students, but had a rough time.  I implemented the system too late for them to care and I couldn’t find an appropriate way to administer them.
  • I created the worksheets day-by-day instead of having them all printed out and bound together.  Because of this, students treated them as a chore instead of a resource and left them laying all over the place.
  • I am ready to do this a second time so I can fix all my mistakes!  But I am thankful for the opportunity to learn from them!

It takes time:

  • Gulp.  I had no idea how long planing, scripting, creating, taping, and editing the videos would take.  Many late nights and weekends were spent on these lessons – I hadn’t done that in years.
  • Keeping up with the grading was a bit of a headache.  Reading and commenting on all blog posts was time consuming.  Keeping track of who turned in what was somewhat of a nightmare but I am slowly figuring things out.
  • Trying to figure out the ins and outs of Moodle, quizzing, and conditional activites stressed me out at first, but once I got the hang of it, it was great!

The kids loved it:

  • Sometimes I would get down because a few students were lazy and complaining about the work, but most loved working on the lessons and couldn’t wait to start each day.  I’ve never had students come to class and get started right away without being asked before.  Since the kids knew exactly what they were doing, what was coming next, there was no need for me to make announcements each day. I even had students completing tasks for homework, even though they are not expected to.

It was totally worth it:

  • I was so proud of their accomplishments.  It’s true when they say “anyone can learn to code”.   I taught 8th graders (and am planning on teaching 7th graders next year) and they did wonderfully with it.  Something I’m especially proud of is the girls in my class who really shined.  Although computer programing and web development is a male-dominated field, more and more young girls are becoming interested in computer science.  Below is a picture from our 8th grade gala of me and my “tech girls”.  I am proud to inspire them to learn more and work hard in this field.


Game Board:

WWWD Map-01

Land Example:

crimson and cornflowerblue-43

Badge Examples:

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 9.52.02 PM

Learn to Code! (My Videos):

Student Webpage Examples:

Working in Action:

DSC_026920140522-DSC_0286 DSC_026720140522-DSC_0287





Course 4

Final Project Brainstorm

When I started Coetail, I was pretty nervous about the last project.  I didn’t want to get bogged down with just “one more thing” that would add to my busy schedule.  Even up until this last class, I was unsure about what I was going to do.  I had an idea, but it just didn’t seem to fit right.  I could only get 80% excited about it, but I really wanted to be 110% excited about my Course 5 project.

I initially thought I wanted to do something for Spanish class.  I wouldn’t be revamping a unit, but creating a new one all together. Usually when we talk about different cultures, (Mexican, Spanish, Guatemalan…) I completely give the instruction.  I was thinking I would instead have the students take ownership of that.  They would be expected to contact students from different international schools around the world, (in Spanish-speaking countries) and interview them about their daily lives.  The would discover what kids in that city like to eat, do in their free time, what school’s like, what kind of music they listen to, and the like.  My students would hopefully get photographs and stories from these other students.  I had a few ideas of how they could present these findings, maybe through a website or a blog…but I couldn’t quite get my thoughts together.  Another barrier to this project would be the time I have in Spanish class.  I teach only an exploratory class, and I really don’t have any extra time to do this.  Next year I’ll be teaching Spanish I, and I’ll have the whole year to work on their Spanish skills, as well as fit this project in!  While I’m still excited about it, I won’t be able to complete it this year.

What I am 110% excited about is teaching a new unit in my 8th grade technology class.  I’m a little concerned if I’m “allowed” to because I’m not taking a traditional unit and redefining it with technology…but I’m hoping it will still work!

I plan on teaching the students how to build websites with HTML and beautify them with CSS.  I have learned so many things in course 4 that I am excited to apply to this unit, including flipped learning, gamifying the unit, awarding the students with badges, and possibly a culminating Project Based Learning activity at the end (I’m still thinking about how that would work).

I think my students are going to love the new unit, new class format, and I am actually really looking forward to putting in all the work to make it meaningful for them.

Course 4

The Future of Technology

For some reason, more than another blog post assignment, this one has me terrified.  Is anyone with me?

“Will education as we know it change because of technology?  Where and how will you be teaching in 5, 10, 15 years time?”

How am I supposed to answer that in a blog post?  The only answer I can think of is “I have no idea”.  But I know I have to come up with something more than that.

So I signed up for a MOOC. (Massive Open Online Course) Unsure of what that is?  Watch the video below!

MOOCs are built for “a world where information is everywhere”.

THIS is the key.  These days, information is everywhere.  20 years ago, information came from a few sources: My teacher. My textbooks.  The occasional trip to the library to check out the obligatory biography or make some photocopies from an encyclopedia.  Maybe a Bill Nye video every once in a while.

These days, kids can get information on nearly anything at anytime.  

Opportunities are endless.  The mind staggers at what could be done!!

I signed up for the course “Learn to Program: The Fundamentals” course from Coursera.  I regret to say I didn’t go any further than signing up…(apparently I’m not the only one, only 48,520 people out of 66,510 who signed up watched the first video) but it’s still on my life “TO DO” list to complete the course!

Today technology allows us to access any information we want!  There is so much power in that.

The big question though is, where and HOW will I be teaching in 5, 10, 15 years time?

One thing that technology can’t replace is teachers.  Why?  Because where as I am motivated to learn programming, or quilting, or Illustrator, or photography, children aren’t so motivated to learn what they need to learn.  (I’m certainly not motivated to learn anything I don’t have an interest in.)  And what 7th grader has motivation to learn grammar rules?  Very few, let me tell you.

Teachers are the ones who come alongside of kids, care for them, guide them, and love on them, drawing them to want to learn and develop.

I believe, in the upcoming years, teachers won’t be as much a source of content as facilitators of content discovery.

This will happen as more teachers become comfortable with technology integration.  When they see the vast world of information that’s available out there and learn how to make it accessible to our students.

These are exciting times, and the fruits of a whole shift in culture are waiting to be revealed as kids of the digital age grow up to be members of society!

Course 4

Project Based Learning


Photo Credit: daveograve@ via Compfight cc

Ok, I get that Project Based Learning (PBL) has great benefits.

It’s goal is to “…educate students so they are able to understand and solve complex problems in a changing world.” ~ (International Guide to Student Achievement p. 382)

– so how can I complain.  This is WHY I teach!  I mean, who wouldn’t get excited about students traveling to Tanzania to help local wildlife officials fight poaching?

Students truly thrive when they get to solve real world problems. In this video describing the aforementioned Poaching in Tanzania project, students commented, “Everything we’re learning is completely relevant,”  “It’s a lot more fun than every other classroom because it gives you a sense of importance,” and “It’s interesting because it’s relative to something that’s going on in real life.”  They’re totally into it!

But when I look at these complex projects, I get nervous.  Questions buzz in my mind such as: Who has time to plan this?  How am I supposed to teach my standards?  I don’t like group projects!  Basically each and every one of my questions pop up in this article from Edutopia:  Debunking 5 Myths about Project-Based Learning 

Honestly, it’s hard to know where to start.  It seems so overwhelming.

The more I read, however, I saw that PBL is not a one-size fits all deal.

The Buck Institute for Education has a blog that has been really helpful for me when understanding what constitutes Project Based Learning.  A recent blog post noted:

Project Based Learning as a broad category, which as long as there is an extended “project” at the heart of it, could take several forms or be a combination of:

1 )Designing and/or creating a tangible product, performance or event

2) Solving a real-world problem (may be simulated or fully authentic)

3) Investigating a topic or issue to develop an answer to an open-ended question

A helpful resource for teachers looking to get started is BIE’s article  Eight Essential Elements of Meaningful Projects

It describes how meaningful projects include:

1. Significant Content
2. A Need to Know
3. A Driving Question
4. Student Voice and Choice
5. 21st Century Skills
6. Inquiry and Innovation
7. Feedback and Revision
8. Publicly Presented Project

I have to ask myself – how could this method fit in to my classes – specifically technology?  How am I supposed to include Project Based Learning when my objectives range from typing to word processing to graphic design and programing?

Already the gears have been turning.  One way is by combining units on digital citizenship and media literacy with our technology skills being taught.  This includes everything from cyberbullying to research skills.  How can we investigate and report on these issues in an authentic, meaningful way?

Brad Flickinger takes it a step further.  He not only teaches technology skills to elementary students, but had students put these skills to work, raising money for a library program in Nicaragua.  His driving question was “How can I use technology to make the world a better place, starting with me?”

I’ve had my students do plenty of projects, but nothing to this extent.  Now that the gears are turning, I’m looking forward to thinking of ways I can introduce Project Based Learning into my classroom in the future.

Course 4

The “Learning” Classroom

Photo Credit: Enokson via Compfight cc

“I can think of no better saboteur of passion for learning than homework.” ~ Joe Bower

As fellow Coetailer Mary Carley pointed out in a recent blog post, one of the biggest things that makes me wary of the “Flipped” Classroom is the homework issue.

I don’t like assigning homework, and I know my students don’t like being assigned homework.  I know they have many things to do after school (sports, church activities, drama, be with their families, going to bed early…) and I feel they can do their best work in the classroom, where they can get any help they need. Over the years I’ve been assigning less and less.

I recently had a girl ask, “Can we finish the story for homework?” as a question…because she was enjoying the assignment so much she wanted to do more.  THIS is what I’m looking for.

It appears to me, when teachers do the traditional “flip”, this is what students are getting. More homework.

I really fell in love with Paul Anderson’s method of teaching, where he takes the “Flipped” classroom and turns it in to the “Learning” classroom.   He speaks about equity, and how he wants to make his class fair.  Not every student has the same access to technology.  Not every student has the same home life.  Not every student has the same after school schedule.  So why am I making learn the same way?

He states, “The only thing that is fair for all students is the classroom.”  As a teacher, this statement is incredibly empowering.  What a special, rich environment for learning to take place.  I’d never thought of it this way.

Like the flipped classroom model, Anderson uses videos to teach content, but he does not believe this is the most powerful element of his class, it is the mastery system of learning.

He has developed an alternate-reality game entitled Biohazard 5, which covers his AP Biology course content.  He believes that:

  1. School should be fun.
  2. Failure is good.
  3. School should be leveled.

and those core beliefs served as the foundation for the game (course) he built.  Each day, students work through the course at their own pace.  Anderson claims that he as moved his classroom from a passive teacher-centered learning environment to an active student-centered environment, which sounds like an educator’s dream come true!

Right now I’m so excited to explore and learn more.  I’ve been teaching eighth grade technology for almost a semester and loving it.  I talked to my principal, and it looks like I’ll be able to take over 6th and 7th grade as well next year.  I feel a new passion in my soul and am so excited to set up my classes using this model!

Someone else I’ve also been following is Brad Flickinger, an elementary school technology teacher.  He uses the badge system (using actual buttons as badges) to encourage his students to learn everything they can in technology class.  His system is working so well kids are begging to earn more badges during the summer.  WOW!

I’ve already been hard at work these past few weeks creating a leveled course, badges, and extension activities for my students.  I’m excited to see how it will all pan out!

Course 4 Uncategorized

I’m SO Excited About Gamification!!!


I’ll admit, I was a bit skeptical about this “Gamification” thing, until I learned what it actually was.

For reference, I started kindergarden in 1989 and graduated high school in 2002.  I wasn’t a huge nerd, but I did love playing a few video and computer games.  My favorites were (in chronological order) Frogger, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, The Legend of Zelda – Ocarina of Time, Roller Coaster Tycoon, and The Sims.  (Ahh…sweet nostalgia creating all those links…)

I loved playing those games!  They could keep me occupied for hours with their seemingly never-ending quests, challenges, and rewards.  I still remember trying to collect all the spiders in Zelda (never did it), and being upgraded to “Super Sleuth” in Carmen Sandiego. (I never found her though…probably should have studied geography more…).  I was always looking forward to unlock new levels in Roller Coaster Tycoon and trying to get my Sim the better car and cooler job.

As I studied gamification, I realized isn’t necessarily about playing games in the classroom, it’s about providing students with the same thing–quests, challenges, and rewards when they accomplish the tasks you’ve put before them.

And this isn’t just being done in the classroom! Nike has created “Nike +” which is an entire system that allows you to track your activity, visualize your performance, set goals, earn achievements, challenge your friends, and share successes.  WOW.  I don’t really know what you DO with all these achievements, but it must be pretty cool because apparently 33 of my Facebook friends are using the system.

Then we have Kobo, which is a brand of eReader, who has gamified reading by creating awards for readers.

Codecademy awards users with badges as they complete lessons.  I just checked, and apparently I’ve earned only 23…so embarrassing!! I want moreeee!

I know nothing about Foursquare, (an application that allows you to “Check In” to places you visit) but apparently there are hundreds of badges out there to earn.  I had to ask myself, “What is the purpose?” According to, “The points don’t really do anything, but they’re fun to get an idea where you stand against your friends.”  Well then.

The thing is–it’s working for these companies! Check out the Gamification Wiki for lots more information.

So of course we are looking to bring this into education.  According to Cristina Ioana Muntean, in her paper entitled “Raising engagement in e-learning through gamification“, 

“Gamification does not imply creating a game. It means makes education more fun and engaging, without undermining its credibility. Gamification helps students gain motivation towards studying, and because of the positive feedback they get pushed forwards and become more interested and stimulated to learn. Gamification can constitute a powerful boost to determine them to study/read

Few things are more exiting for a teacher–at any grade level or in any subject area–to see students motivated and excited to learn.

I came across this TED talk by Paul Andersen and was blown away!  Honestly, for the first time, I got really excited about doing something new and innovative in my classroom.  He talks about how he conducts his Entire AP Biology class as a game.  He goes more in depth, with examples, in this video.  He takes flipping the classroom to a whole new level!

YouTube Preview Image

Recently my school has been talking about (and moving towards) standards-based grading and report cards, and while the idea seems completely overwhelming, deep down, it seems like the best thing for the students.  

Gamification makes achieving those skills and standards FUN!  It seems like a dream, but I do believe with hard work, teachers can make this a reality for their students.

I’m so excited about this topic!  

Course 4

Helping Them Appreciate Technology in the Classroom

A few days ago a Facebook “friend” (old acquaintance) posted this message to her Facebook.

Screen shot 2013-11-12 at 7.30.31 AM

While I do understand that it is a sensitive and complicated issue, this post got me thinking.  I don’t really know much about politics and public education in the United States, what’s going on in Henrico County, or what prompted this Facebook rant.  While the author claims she thinks “technology is great”, it sure doesn’t seem like she believes so.  It’s kind of like when someone says “I’m not racist, but…” and finishes the sentence with something obviously racist.

Quickly coming to mind is a time when the most popular topic of parent-teacher conferences was how our new 1-to-1 computer program was failing.  So many parents (it seemed) were questioning the program, saying their kids stayed up “way too late studying/chatting/playing/homeworking/whatever”.     Those arguments have lessened over the years (we’re in our fifth year), for which I am thankful.

Thinking about both of these situations make me ask myself one question:  How can I use technology in my classroom to show these people that these computers are a good thing…a REALLY good thing?

It’s actually something I’ve been wondering for years.

This year I was introduced to the SAMR model, which provides a framework to help teachers think about moving from using technology as a substitution, to augmentation, to modification, to redefinition.  I first wrote about it here, and Dr. Ruben R. Puentedura explains it more in depth (with excellent examples) in this presentation.

It’s easy to see substitution all over in the 1-to-1 classroom.  Some of my students are reading on iPads and Kindles during silent reading instead of from books.  The are allowed to make flash cards on instead of by hand for vocabulary.  The can make a cartoon on Bitstrips instead of drawing it themselves.  I can see why parents wouldn’t get too excited about this.  Especially the flash cards.  Isn’t it less distracting to study them on paper?

It gets a little more exciting when we reach augmentation.  This is because it makes it easier for students to accomplish tasks we’ve always done in class, but take it to the next level.  Using Google Drive, students are able not only to create presentations and documents, but to do it collaboratively.  I can give feedback and students can revise easily.  Of course, I could do this on a poster or on a written essay, but with Google Drive there is greatly increased functionality.  When parents and administrators see what can be done here, they seem to warm up to the idea of “technology integration” a little more.

People really start to get on board at modification.  This is where applications like Diigo come in and change the way we’ve always done things. For example, I focus on teaching students annotation skills, but with Diigo, I am able to take annotating to new heights.  Students not only can comment on articles and resources, but save their work, comment upon each other’s work, organize and share resources, and overall make online research a more streamlined process.  This is where you get people saying, “Wow, I wish we had this when I was younger!  It would have made everything so much easier!”

Where we make true believers is with redefinition.  Here is where we get parents and administrators saying, “Wow, we NEED to make this happen.”  This is when we do things that we previously inconceivable without the available technology.  I’m teaching a technology class right now where student are keeping blogs.  I just checked a kid’s blog today and he had a new post entitled “PROJECT DONE ON MY OWN” where he created a GIF in Photoshop, something we learned in class a few weeks back.  He was clearly proud of himself, a) as evidenced by the all-caps title b) the simple fact that he uploaded it to his blog instead of just keeping it on his computer.  I was really proud of him as well.  When we get students out there creating content, and sharing it with the world, connecting with other creators…that’s where the magic happens.

I’ll be the first to admit, it’s pretty hard to climb the “SAMR” ladder.  Sometimes it seems like all I’m doing is substation or a little augmentation here or there.  I think it’s really important for teachers to start small and do what they can.  A little thing here, a huge project there, and build slowly.  Just creating one project a year is a giant step in the right direction! This prevents burnout and allows students to learn in different ways.

I have not tackled “redefining technology” yet in Spanish class.  Which is so unfortunate because I feel like there are so many opportunities out there.  I’m really excited to work on my COETAIL Course 5 project with my second semester Spanish class.  They’re going to learn and experience so much that they never would be able to without the Internet and their computers!

When we do our best, we show parents, administrators, and naysayers that this “technology integration” thing is here to stay.  It’s important for every teacher with technology in the classroom to ask themselves:  “How can I improve?”  “Where can I go from here?”

The SAMR model has really been effective in showing me where I’m at and giving me something to look forward to and strive for.

Course 3 Uncategorized

Reflections on GAFE (Google Apps for Education) Summit

I will admit, I am a girl who appreciates her weekends, so I was a little apprehensive about spending two full days at the Google in Education Summit.  In addition, I always approach conferences ready to feel bad about myself, like I’m not doing “enough” in the classroom.  I get scared to go, because I don’t want to feel overwhelmed afterwards.

But I must admit, I really appreciated going to the Google Summit this weekend.  I didn’t feel like it was a waste of time and I didn’t walk away feeling too overwhelmed.  It was a good balance.

There were a few things I took away from the weekend.

1) I was really excited about Hapara.  The company provides a teacher dashboard that organizes students’ Google Apps such as Google Docs, Blogger, and Presentations.  I’ve been moving to using Google Apps more and more in the class, but it is sometimes difficult to organize.  It takes me time to click through everyone’s work.  I feel like there has to be a better way.  Apparently there is.  The only problem is the $4-6/student price tag which I’m not sure will fly…so we’ll see what happens.

2) I have heard of Google Apps Script before,  (thanks to the one and only Paul Sanderson who sent me this video a while back.)  but really didn’t know what they or or the power they had.  Google Apps Scripts provide ways for users to do MORE with Google Apps.  I’ve found that while Google Docs and Forms are super helpful, there are limitations. Basically, with a bit of code, (created by developers) you can expand their reach and do things you never imagined.  Things such as create and grade quizzes, and make copies of templates for students (so they don’t have to do it).  Jay Attwood has great resources under the “Google Apps Scripts” label on his website.

3) I attended a session by Jim Sill on Google Maps.  It’s been recently updated, and there are so many ways I’ll be able to use this with my students in my final project for this class.

All in all, I’m very thankful for the opportunity to attend, and even more excited about things coming up in class this year, especially my Course 5 project!

Course 3

Creating a Keynote – Presentation Zen Style

I was looking through some of my old Keynotes, trying to find one to “remake” in Presentation Zen Style.

Some included many words, but I believe they really help my students take notes and study, so I would never change them.  I do agree that there is great worth in a simple presentation, but at the same time, you must consider the purpose of your presentation.  My Spanish lesson on Simple Present Tense Verb Conjugation has few pictures and many words, but I believe the style makes verb conjugation easy-to-understand for my eighth grade students.  I’m gonna keep it!

The thing about that Keynote is that all of my images are copyrighted…this was before I learned about Creative Commons and my responsibility as a teacher!  Even now, I have a hard time removing the images because a) it would take way too much time to fix all of my Keynotes and b) the kids really like the images, especially the Pokemon.

I find it is quite difficult to find the perfect Creative Commons images for use in my Keynote presentations.  I’m sure many teachers are coming across the same problems.  It would take me hours and hours to remake my presentation on Spain, for example, and choose only photos that are labeled with a Creative Commons license.  In addition, these pictures are sometimes of lesser quality and less interesting to my students.

Ever since I took my second Coetail course, even though I haven’t exclusively used images with a Creative Commons license,  I’ve been sure to cite my image sources on the last page of my Keynote.  This mainly because I put these on the Internet for everyone to see.  If it were just in front of my students each day, it might be a different story.

Thanks for letting me be honest!

For this assignment, I created a new Keynote with the “Presentation Zen” style in mind.  I tried not to include anything extra that would distract my students but make sure all the information was included, incase they needed to review the Keynote on their own.  (I upload all my presentations to my website so they can go back and see them.)

I tried to remember “Simple but not Simplistic” as I created this Keynote.  I used it as a backdrop for my lesson, but had other information to share with the students as we went along.  I was the one giving the information, not the Keynote.  But I suppose one could figure out all the info JUST from looking at the Keynote.  I like it this way. This is especially helpful for absent students.

I created this presentation in Keynote.  To get it into a Google Presentation, I exported each of my slides as Image files.  (You can do this in Keynote by going to File -> Export -> Images -> All -> Next and then saving the images to a folder.)  After I turned each separate slide into an image file, I began a new Google Presentation, opened 18 blank slides, and then added each separate image to a blank slide.  I do something very similar to get my Keynotes on my classroom Weebly website.

Course 3

Using Infographics in the Classroom

Right now in seventh grade literature, we are discussing reading strategies and in doing so, reading various articles about teen smoking, nicotine addiction, the tobacco industry and the dangers of tobacco use.  One of the articles I use is this Fact Sheet on Youth and Tobacco Use from the CDC.  The students’ main objective while reading this article is to properly define tricky words.   We use the content to spark a discussion about the various statistics regarding youth tobacco use, as well as factors associated with use and ways we can reduce youth tobacco use.

This year I’m planning on using the infographic embedded below in addition to our text articles.  First we will have a large group discussion —  “Which fact(s) shock you? Which facts stick out the most?”  Afterwards, we will discuss which presentation of facts are easier to understand–facts presented as in the infographic or as presented in the text of an article?”  I have the feeling most students will choose the infographic, which makes sense.

Presenting this data in a visual manner is more helpful for almost everyone.

We’ll talk about this in literature class, but the point still remains, at times, students will be made to read articles and lists of statistics, without pictures and images, and still be asked to summarize and analyze the information.  My job as a seventh grade literature teacher is to equip them with those reading skills and strategies–to help them read, even though it may not be the easiest way for them to glean information.  They will have to do it!!

Here is the infographic: