Course 1

Memories – Final Reflection

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With our focus on developing student writing skills, we did not want to reinvent the wheel for this final project; we wanted to simply “pimp” the wheel up a bit.  Using Google Apps, we streamlined the writing process, which allows students to collaborate seamlessly with each other and their teachers.  Most importantly, this project provided an authentic, collaborative learning experience for the students while focusing on the learning goal – good writing.

Here’s the project: Memories are Important, Expository Writing Project

Overall, this class provided me the motivation- wait, hit the brakes AND rewind! Since I scratched a check for $950, this course (and my wife) forced me to delve into the technology and reflect upon how I used it personally and professionally.  More importantly, it put me in a learning environment outside my comfort level.  You the one – the outside the box idea that teachers constantly ask students to gravitate towards.  Well, this course, thankfully, provided the same opportunity for me.  Being a person/teacher interested in using tech in my classroom, I was able to find and explore the “super highway” in a meaningful manner.  More precisely, I was to finally able to abandon my leisurely drive in the country and explore global communities “ELSEWHERE“.  I’m looking forward to the European “autobahn” for my next adventure.

Accountability – Absolutely

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Examining NETs for Teachers, it’s hard to imagine anyone being in opposition of them as one of the many assessment tools for teachers. Other than the word digital, how are these standards any different than those used around the world today?

1. Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity

2. Design and Develop Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments

3. Model Digital-Age Work and Learning

4. Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Responsibility

5. Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership

Clearly, there must be an infrastructure in place to appropriately assess teachers and their use of technology in the classroom.  Even further, it is imperative that the professional development and learning opportunities mirror the agreed upon expectations.  Often, administration makes a false assumption that if you give a teacher a computer then that teacher can be expected to use technology in the classroom.  False assumption!  Several factors can influence a teacher’s use of technology – how it enhances the learning objectives, IT infrastructure, student abilities, and teacher tech competency to name a few.  However, another vital factor is the competency of those assessing the NETs – are they qualified to do so?  Many times, administrators are in the same boat – or on the same bus – as the faculty and do not possess the skills to adequately use technology let alone evaluate its use.  I believe that the NETs should be an essential part of teacher evaluation – it holds us accountable and ensures we are meeting the needs of our students in their learning environment.  Accordingly, I believe that faculty, like students, must be properly prepared to be successful.

Speaking Their Language

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YouTube Preview ImageDigital Citizenship – we are all responsible for ensuring our students are conscientious, ethical users of technology.  Even further, students should hold themselves accountable to the standards and expectations established for them.  With much independence comes much responsibility – this is the philosophy I believe and practice in my classroom.  As our 21st century learners gather new strategies and tools, there is an enormous amount of trust we must bestow upon them as they hang out, mess around or geek out.  However, the key is guaranteeing that we, the adults (teachers and parents) provide continuous input/guidance which promotes the use of technology effectively and productively. Currently, our school is moving toward the development and implementation of “Character Education” in our curriculum – digital citizenship is an integral component if we are to achieve true success.  Since we are a “one to one” school, students must be able to handle the responsibilities that come with 21st century tools. Understanding their {students} responsibility within an environment where teachers are the role models will further the cause, but not ensure us the goals are met.

Forget Flat Stanley!

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YouTube Preview ImageWhat ever happened to Flat Stanley?  Remember a time, not so long ago, when receiving a parcel via “snail-mail” containing a special project for a niece or nephew brought a smile to your face?  I do.  I would get fired up and take the rudimentary piece of butcher paper -  which closely resembled an anorexic gingerbread man – around Taipei for a visit.  Photos were taken and Flat Stanley was prominently posed in front of all the cool, must-see spots for every tourist.  Needless to say, Flat Stanley was sure to be the talk of the Grade 2 once he returned stateside for “Show and Tell”  .  Oh, how times have changed.  A simple idea which provides thousands of students an opportunity to explore world culture and world geography has undergone a “virtual” metamorphosis.  Now, Flat Stanley is a jet-setter who explores the globe using Google Maps and the stroke of a key.

There are so many exciting opportunities for students to collaborate – in class and globally – these days  the most difficult issue is choosing the correct/most effective method.  Google Apps, Skype,, video conferencing and Wiki Sites have made time and geographical barriers obsolete.  Not only that, but this type of “global” collaboration creates invaluable, authentic learning opportunities for the 21st century learner.  Already, I’ve investigated creating global learning communities – connecting my students with students from Chile, London and the US.  The opportunities for seamless collaboration of reading and writing projects are endless.  Think about it – an endless supply of peer editors and writing reviewers for students to utilize as they develop their own skills.

The sorts of global collaborative projects you can embark on are only limited by your imagination and ability to strike up connections.

Student Teachers

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We cannot, no matter how hard we try or how smart we are (or think we are), invent the future education of our children for them. The only way to move forward effectively is to combine what they know about technology with what we know and require about education.

Reflecting on technology use in my classroom and relating it to the article, Shaping Tech for the Classroom, I have to admit I’m stuck somewhere between old things in old ways and old things in new ways.  I am one of the “digital immigrants” continually striving to improve my tech integration to meet the needs of today’s students. As technology goes, I feel I’m constantly increasing the opportunities for students to use tech to demonstrate their understanding of the topics at hand.  Since I teach writing, one of the tools I have students use is Google Docs for “real time” editing and collaboration.  Even further,  I “up the ante” on digital opportunities – such as using an online writing tool, the WPP, which allows students to input expository essays and immediately receive a computerized score based on an ERB standardized rubric.  How cool is this for students and  teachers!  Not only does it provide an instant score, but it also provides interactive digital lessons to assist students in the areas of weaknesses in their submitted pieces!  All along I’m thinking how “cool” this is for them – they receive feedback  instantly!  The reality is that it’s really only cool for me -  the students have been using this type of tech for a long while. Whether the students are “hanging out“, “messing around” or “geeking out“, they have been honing their collaborative skills since they could reach a  keyboard.  These “digital natives” have known no other real form of collaboration and this type of interactive, instant response is a part of their generation. I, like a lot of other educators, am simply trying to catch up to the students we teach.  The key is to be able synthesize what students already know with the expectations of the curriculum.

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Baby Steps by Design

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These past few weeks, I’ve found myself questioning how I use technology in the classroom.  It’s not that I feel I don’t use it correctly, but rather,  I’m concerned that I don’t use it efficiently.  As I’ve stated in earlier posts, navigating the many choices we have at our fingertips and designing lessons to incorporate technology is exciting.  However, it is also extremely time consuming if not done well.   I know I’m not the only teacher to experience the “buzz” of the students as they turn on their computers and begin constructing their next masterpiece.  Picture it – I move about the classroom, checking all of the cool projects and observe an abundance of student creativity displayed on computer screens.  As I do so, I realize that I have not fully considered all of the options/pitfalls a middle school student will accidentally discover on purpose. These same students quickly bring me back to reality as they pelt me with a plethora of questions that I’m not sure how to answer.  What I quickly realize is that in my eagerness to  promote “technology” in the classroom, I occasionally push the intended learning goal to the back burner.  In my attempt to make the lesson “cool and creative”, I forget to make it purposeful and focused.  Pondering this issue and looking at the amount of class time already dedicated to the process, I decide to plod forward determined to see how things “turn out”.  As students complete the required tasks I find  my patience wearing thin – putting out one fire after another.  So, I do what most of us do and ask, “Is it really worth all of this hassle?”  Seriously – unlabeled folders, deleted papers, embedded videos that have disappeared and other “tech” issues constantly  battering my poor students’ delicate psyches and mine!  The answer is a resounding, “YES!” I believe the key is to keep the process simple and the desired results basic.  By doing so, this allows those of us still in the “experimentation” mode to develop strategies and procedures which enables us to help students more effectively.  Not only that, by using baby steps it ensures we keep the learning outcomes at the forefront of each lesson/project.  Currently, I work with a “tech-geek” who constantly provides cool things for us to do in our classes.  Like most, I eagerly jump at the new ideas and how they enrich the learning environment.  Even though I realize that some of these projects are out of my “comfort” level,  I recognize the value of using technology to enhance student learning and literacy.  Even further, how can I ask students to take risks and have patience if I don’t do the same?

Learning by Playing: Video Games in the Classroom

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I wish I went to this school, too!  YouTube Preview Image

Thinking about the revised Blooms Taxonomy, where nouns are converted into action verbs, it had me thinking – it’s about time.

Reflecting upon and answering the question about how my view on technology has changed, I began exploring the “Super Highway” – looking for more  examples of how educators can positively impact learning through technology.  More importantly, I was anxious to find new ways to incorporate tech in my classroom using fun, cutting edge strategies.  Although incorporating games is a part of what I do in class to “make learning fun” I realize I have miles to go before I sleep.

Learning Well With Others – The Sifting Process

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After reading a “World Without Walls:  Learning Well with Others” I find myself  in a familiar location – lost on the super highway without a GPS to guide me.  As an educator, I find it ironic that I ask, no, I expect, students to take risks in the classroom everyday.  Yet, I continually struggle to take these same risks.  Richardson’s article introduces the idea of the  Collaboration Age; an idea which emphasizes the importance of teachers embracing the tools at our disposal to enhance learning and literacy.  To me, the idea of creating global learning “groups” which are, “safe, effective networks and communities” to nurture the interests and passions of 21st Century learners has me gassing up the Ford and heading to the “highway”.  As I negotiate the side streets and stop lights, searching for the  ”on-ramp” I begin to wonder if it would be safer to take a ride in the country.  Not only is it  safer and easier to navigate, but also I would not have to worry about the traffic or poor drivers distracting me from enjoying the ride.  Well, this is a constant battle I face when “relinquishing” the steering wheel and giving control to student-drivers.  How do I provide them a consistent, reliable map to ensure they reach their destination safely?  How do I help students determine which routes are better to take so they find their way through the maze? Well, as Richardson points out, “We must also expand our ability to think critically about the deluge of information now being produced by millions of amateur authors without traditional editors and researchers as gatekeepers.”  I concur.  As educators, we need to understand that it’s not necessarily our job to provide students with the correct map, but rather to educate and equip students with the proper tools to choose a map for themselves.  In order to do this, it is imperative that we practice what we preach.  More precisely, we must take “risks” and engage in the new technologies in order to deliver the proper guidance students need to become active, global learners. By doing so, not only will we be able to explore more interesting and viable communities along the interstate, but our students will most likely help us plan the best road-trip ever!

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