on education

thoughts from a graduate student at the university of mary washington
Browsing INDT 501

new technologies. week eleven.



Here are some folks getting ready for their class meeting in a virtual world. 

This week, I must admit, is a hard one for me. I want to be on the forefront of all of the educational technology that’s out there, but this is where I draw the line. I will say it, loud and proud:

I absolutely do not like and will never use virtual realities in my classroom. 

Now, this is a bias I’ve carried with me since these things cropped up years ago. But after investigating them this week, I can’t say that my mind has been changed at all. I looked at the web-based virtual homeschooling site, and I wasn’t really that impressed with the demo campus tour. I could, however, see the benefits of home schooled kids collaborating with others on group projects since they don’t have that opportunity sitting around their kitchen tables with mom and pop. In this sense, when the students are cut off from others, I suppose that a virtual reality is better than nothing. Even so, they freak me out. To me, they disengage you with the actual world around you and thrust you into something make believe, and everything about that sits wrong with me. I guess I’d rather take my students on a field trip and let them talk to real scientists, see real experiments or microcosms representing what they’re learning. Be hands-on in that way.

Now, on to the thing that really, really got me going. My husband had to listen to me rant about this for at least half an hour. Ladies and gentlemen, the TED talk. Does nobody else find this kind of technology alarming and ridiculous?! And that line at the end about coming back with an IMPLANTED BRAIN DEVICE?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Just no. No, no, no. My mind is going so quickly, I’m not even sure where to begin with this. I suppose that in a nutshell, this is how I feel about the technology these people presented: It stops you from thinking. I know, I know. It’s supposed to be about expanding our horizons and giving us real-time access to information, but that’s just not how I process what’s happening in that video. Take, for example, the projection of a word cloud onto a person that you’re meeting for the first time using keywords from their blog posts, Google search results, what have you. This device is preventing you from thinking about this person. It’s telling you what to think. Its persuading and forming your opinion based on words that it chooses. And again, with it being able to pull up information for you about a book or a product, same result: you don’t have to think! It does everything for you — the research, the synthesization of information, and the end product. Who cares if the book gets 5 stars or 2 stars? If you want to read it, read it! If you want to know the most ecologically sound toilet paper to buy, look them up before you go to the store AND MAKE YOUR OWN DECISION ABOUT IT! And by the way, this lady is so wrong — I do, in fact, hop onto my iPhone and look things up while I’m standing in the store every now and then. I’ve never once in my life wished I could pull a Tom Cruise in Minority Report and look at metadata (or metacontent, if you will) moment. It seems to me that this kind of thing almost borders on encouraging groupthink, and lacks the kind of divergent thinking and critical thinking that I’m trying to instill in my students.

I understand that I’m probably in the minority in this, but that’s the beauty in designing my own classroom and my own philosophy of how this all plays out. I’m totally allowed to think this whole thing is nuts!

I suppose that, truly, my biggest beef with these virtual worlds that we’ve been exploring this week is that I feel like it’s displacing the role of the teacher and the school environment in favor of a completely simulated one with perfect conditions. I’m anti-textbook, I really am. I enjoy bringing technology into the classroom. I like using iPad apps and making Skype calls between countries or with subject matter experts. I’m in favor of authentic learning experiences. Most of the things we’ve explored in this course have piqued my interest. Just not this. I know that in the Solomon & Schrum text they talk about how these virtual “MUVEs” are supposed to create divergent thinking and offer complex, real world problems/solutions, but I’m not really buying into that for my age range. It would appear to me from reading the text that these are geared toward older students, anyway. The examples they gave of elementary grades and projects/simulations in these virtual environments still seemed to me that they used a lot of time out of the virtual world, and their end result (in my opinion) could have been reached without using the virtual world at all.

My content area is pre-k thru grade 6. My job is to teach these kids how to research and dissect information, synthesize it, begin to think critically, and come to their own conclusions. These ideas are so new to them, I want to be there to guide them through it. I want to do it together in this actual, physical world. Maybe it’s the limitations of my own mind, but I just don’t see how Second Life is going to help me do that. Also, you know, if we’re talking about me doing pre-k or kindergarten, my role is mainly to teach them socially appropriate and acceptable behavior. Yes, we’ve got content that we’re learning, but as I’ve witnessed in my kindergarten practicum placement, it really does take a backseat to teaching them to be good citizens, first and foremost. I’m not so sure that these virtual environments will be useful to me in these grade levels. If we’re going to take a virtual field trip somewhere, I want to log in to the field trip that’s being held at the real, physical place! I want a real scientist guiding me through or a real expert on botany or what have you. I’m not interested in some made-up world with cool computer graphics. Are you?

I read through several studies about education and virtual realities, and I found a few that talked about the side effects of these kinds of things, but none of it really suited me to the point of including it here. I’m talking headaches, disorientation, etc. I’m more interested in the effect using these virtual worlds has on our ability to interact in and engage with the real world, but I couldn’t find anything about that. I guess this one thought sums up why I dislike these worlds so much: “Students do many things these days in the world of virtual environments. They invent extensive and creative lives for themselves in which they play, build, interact, and explore” (Solomon & Schrum, 2010). They invent extensive and creative lives. Meaning, they’re not themselves. What’s wrong with the life they’ve got? And I can promise you the people they’re interacting with aren’t being their authentic selves, either. So they’re playing, building, interacting, and exploring in a world full of little white lies and falsities, in which, at the very base of it, their creativity is making their actual lives not good enough. They come out of these worlds feeling a little less than, I think. I want my students to build their self-confidence and explore their interests outside of a fantasyland. I want them to collaborate with the people sitting next to them, or use the class iPads to Skype with students in Beijing learning about the same topic, and they can brainstorm and work together in that way. With other real kids. In a real setting. These virtual worlds may be beneficial in learning about, I don’t know, exploding stars, but that’s not what I’m teaching to young kids. If I want them to feel like journalists, I’ll send them out to interview actual people in their communities. I’ll schedule a video chat with an author. I am absolutely confident that my classroom would not be lacking in creativity simply because I choose not to use these MUVEs.

I want you to peek into how my brain is approaching this, if only because I’ve known a few kids that have gotten too into virtual worlds, and ended up losing the self-esteem battle if you can gather what I’m saying. You’re using the homeschool website I mentioned above. You’re logging in as a student for the first time. You also happen to be 150 pounds or so overweight with acne and crooked teeth. Tell me something: is that the avatar you’d build for yourself? I bet it’s not. Already, your true self is a little less than, and for what? In the name of innovation? You walk through your virtual world, and what else are you making up? What about the people around you in your virtual world, what are they making up? So much for it being authentic. So much of what we do in school goes beyond information. And it’s equally as important, if not more so, in the lower grades. Now, I recognize that not every assignment will be done completely  in a virtual realm and that, according to our text, much still has to be done outside of that environment, but for me…. it’s just not worth it. These kids are so immersed in this kind of technology outside of school that I feel their brains need to be able to shut off from it and do a different kind of work. Actually, I wrote a small paper on it last semester — it’s called digital brain! (You can look at it here, uploaded to my google site)

And take a look at The Telegraph‘s slide show of the most anticipated video games of 2013. What do you notice about these games? Most of them are straight-up scary. All of them look like they’re set in these virtual worlds we’re building for our students. And they spend well over 4 hours a day doing this. I want to pull them out of fantasy land and engage them in the real world. Not a simulation of it.

Check out this short story — The Machine Stops, written in 1909. Funny how something written so long ago rings so true.




Forester, E. M. (1909). The machine stops . Retrieved from http://archive.ncsa.illinois.edu/prajlich/forster.html

Solomon, G., & Schrum, L. (2010). Web 2.0 how-to for educators. (1st ed.). Washington, D.C.: International Society for Technology in Education.

posted under INDT 501 | No Comments »

mini projects, take two. week ten.


The first project that I chose to do was the Google Trek activity. I got off to a bit of a rough start with this one, and it took me about 5 days to get it figured out and done. That being said, now that I understand it and can figure out what I’m doing, it’s not so bad. I decided to make my Google Trek on the 7 Wonders of the World. Oh, except this list kind of changed through history, and plus we needed 8 place markers, so, I put 8 of them. I decided that I wanted my students to start to understand how architecture can tell us about culture, money, religion, etc. Multiple literacies, and all of that.

You can find my Google Trek here. 

I find it interesting that I choose content that’s way above an elementary school kid’s head, even though that’s my endorsement area. Anyone else caught on to this?! Once upon a time, I really wanted to teach high school social studies. And then I student taught in high school social studies, and I decided immediately that it wasn’t for me. So, I’m kind of jumping at the chance to create these lessons because I haven’t in a while. Anyway. I can see Google Trek being useful in an elementary classroom as well, just not this particular trek. Dr. Seuss style, right? Oh, the places you’ll go! 

Yeah. So.

The next project I really struggled with. Not even the actual project, but the choosing of which project to do! I kept going back and forth, and I just wasn’t sure. I really wanted to try the fusion tables, but I just could not wrap my brain around it, and I was coming off of 5 solid days of trying to figure out the trek activity. I ultimately decided on the Timeline project. I chose time toast because I liked the set-up and ease of use. I also like the display of the entire timeline instead of clicking through each individual event. The content standard I chose was understanding the key events of the Civil War. I left out a lot of the battles. As a history nerd, I can tell you… these just don’t matter. Memorizing that junk doesn’t help anybody with anything unless you aim to be a subject matter expert. I think that trying to get your students to memorize battle after battle and fact after fact only dissuades them from learning about the history of this country. Make it interesting and relevant, and keep it light. If you engage them in the right way, they’ll read all about those battles anyway and pull out the information that matters. Understanding the events that led to a national war are much more important. Anyway.

You can see my timeline here.

I think that with some practice and instruction, my students could make a google trek of their own, and they can definitely use this timeline tool to help them review or better understand events spatially. Good stuff.

posted under INDT 501 | 4 Comments »

mini projects, take one. week nine.


I decided to choose the Comic Life project right out of the gate. I wasn’t familiar with using this as a tool and I thought it would make me a little uncomfortable, so I decided to go for it.

I was wrong. I wasn’t uncomfortable at all.

I didn’t read any tutorials, I just started clicking around and I figured it out. I decided that since we weren’t required to align it with an SOL or anything that I’d do something I’m pretty sure nobody learns about in K-12 education. (By the way, remember how I told you my husband likes to stand behind me and watch me explore these technology tools? He likes this one a lot. Like, a lot a lot. I do too. No more coding!)

I did my comic on The Gunpowder Plot of 1605. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about? You will soon. Hopefully you’ll also memorize at least the first stanza of the catchy little poem and walk around saying it for the rest of your days. You’re welcome.







If you have trouble viewing the comic here, you can also find it on my web portfolio here. 


I think this is a pretty fantastic tool, and honestly, the possibilities are endless for using this in a classroom. Yeah, yeah, I know. Enumerate them. Weeeeelllllll… This seems to me to be a way to let kids really grasp their creativity to do a project. No more book reports! Ever! Create a comic for me! I also think they could almost be used like class meetings to bring the classroom together, too. This would be really fun to use, and I bet the kids would like it. Definitely a departure from the same-ol, same-ol.


I also chose to do the Voki assignment. I knew that creating the actual Voki would not be difficult, but I really need to get my brain working on lesson ideas, so I chose this to enable me to do that. I didn’t align it with any specific SOL, I simply designed my activity for an elementary classroom science/language arts lesson in animal biomes/habitats. You can view my end product here.

I tried to play (hopefully successfully?) to multiple levels of technology use. I laid out explicit links for the kids who might not fully understand how to navigate websites, and I also gave a single link that they would be able to click around on and find all of the information that they need for the activity.

I like the idea of talking avatars on websites that we use in the classroom. I’m sure it’s the case here as well, but in Texas we had multiple language learners in the classroom, and they all understood English better in different ways — some liked to read it, some needed to hear it, etc. I like having both options available for them, and it’s really not hard to do at all. It takes no time to put one together, especially if you add your own voice. I also had the avatar say mostly the same thing as what I had written down, but not all of it is the same. This way, they get some information via reading and some via listening.

I’m looking forward to the next two projects next week!


posted under INDT 501 | 2 Comments »

shared sticky notes. week seven.


This week, we’ve been tasked with setting up a collaborative wall on padlet/Wallwisher.

I decided to set up a “Before I Die…” wall. I’m always interested to know what the hopes and goals of people are, especially my friends. So, I set up the wall and asked my friends to participate in it. Some put their names, and some decided to be anonymous. So far, I’m definitely pleasantly surprised at the responses.

You can find my wall here, and I’d love it if you’d add to it! You can remain anonymous, if you like.


I think that this would be useful in my classroom to provide feedback from students. After a lesson or a unit, they can anonymously post a sticky and tell me if they liked the lesson, if they’d change anything, or if they really didn’t understand and need more clarification or a different activity. I also think that it would work well for them to organize their ideas for writing center. They can post ideas for stories or characters onto their own personal boards, and then sign on to the computer during centers and organize their sticky notes to suit their story. Then, they can write it out with an outline of sorts, without making the old-school outline that you and I are used to.

Not too bad — it’s a little like the sticky notes function on my Mac computers. It’s an app, and I can open up sticky  notes and change note colors, fonts, font sizes, and font colors. I can even choose to make the sticky notes transparent-like or opaque. Kind of neat. That’s what this padlet activity reminded me of, and it’s a function that I’ve always enjoyed about my computers so it’s nice that other people can use something like it, too. I use it personally all of the time; I guess it never occurred to me that I can use it in a school setting. But now I know, huh?

posted under INDT 501 | 4 Comments »

to flip? or… not to flip? week six.


This concept is brand-spankin’ new to me. I’d never heard of it, I’d never seen it done. I even did an internet search for it after viewing all of the resources in this week’s module just to see if I could get any more information about it. I can’t say that I have any definitive conclusion about it, honestly. Definitely on the fence. I’m not even sure that this phenomenon deserves to really be called something special. It really sounds to me like exactly what we’re learning to do anyway, when you make it as simple as it’s stated on the infographic we saw: teachers move from “sage on the stage” to “guide on the side.” Isn’t that what we’re doing with 21st century learning/skills, anyway?

I guess the best way for me to hash it out is just to give a pros and cons list, you know?


  • It frees up class time for students to explore the content in a space where they can get help and instant feedback should they require it.
  • The academic results seem to be worth it — it looks statistically like students do better when the classrooms are flipped
  • It proves opportunity for inquiry learning, project-based learning, experiential learning…
  • It allows for differentiated learning
  • Bottom line, it’s moving in the right direction away from a teacher-centered classroom


  • It looks to me like the majority of classrooms using this model are middle and high school classrooms. I’m not sold that it can work with an elementary class, and in fact, when I tried to look it up, a lot of teachers said they tried it and it just didn’t work out. The biggest problem? The students had no idea how to manage their time and/or self pace, which seems to be a large component of this flipped classroom model.
  • I plan on teaching in the lower grades, and I really don’t see how my posting a video online is going to teach kindergarteners what they need to know. Younger children need instructional time, and it’s not just for learning the curriculum. They need to be able to look at an adult role model to learn all kinds of things – social cues, how we interact with people, etc.
  • Again, I’m just not sold that this isn’t part and parcel of a 21st century classroom model, anyway, and it’s just one adaptation of it.

Personally, I don’t think it would be worth trying in my classroom (unless I had 5th or 6th grade students, but even then, we’d have to spend a lot of time talking about time management and self-discipline). I’d say that 90% of what I’ve read about it defines classroom flipping as the teacher delivering the content in a 5-10 minute video seen outside of class and then allowing for practice in the classroom. I have a few problems with this, especially with the smaller kids. First, how are they supposed to get to that content? It would require that an adult is willing to turn on the computer, get to the internet, and supervise the child. In a perfect world? Sure. In the real world? Yeah, right. You’d be shocked at how many parents are completely hands-off when it comes to their child’s education. What about kids who don’t have a computer or internet access at home, or kids whose parents won’t allow them to do it at home? Sure, they can view it at school. But when? When you’re talking about a 6 or 7 year old kid, who’s going to be responsible for getting them to school early? Or picking them up if they stay late when they usually ride the bus home or to an after school care facility? Am I going to cut into their practice time by sending them to the library or computer lab to view the video? 10 minutes for the video, 5 minutes to get there and 5 minutes to get back? By then, the allotted time for that subject area might be close to done! I don’t know, I’m just not sold on it. Good in theory, and definitely doable with older kids who already have a solid grip on the basics and foundations of their education, but when I’m literally just introducing them to the basics? I think face-to-face instruction is way more important. If you know how to manage your own time, you can also provide ample time for classroom practice, experiential learning, and problem-based activities.

Here, watch this:

What do you think?

Again, I think that what this teacher is doing is more just incorporating 21st century tools and activities and not really flipping the classroom per se. I can definitely see the benefit of recording the lesson for lower-achieving students to keep coming back to. But not everyone learns that way. I don’t learn that way. I need somebody in front of my face; I need to be in a group. Let’s not forget about those kinds of learners. I also like the idea of having the content available for the parents. For the ones that DO care, it’s a big help — we definitely don’t teach our students now the way that I was taught, and I’m not even that old (hey! I turned 29 yesterday!). And I don’t really like her attitude of, “yeah, you know, I’ve put in a good 8 hours for each math unit.. but next year? No way! I’m good to go!” NO YOU’RE NOT! You should always be adjusting your lessons, reviewing and renewing them, tweaking them, updating content. You can’t just say it’s good enough and let it be, especially with technology. It changes and the content available for you to use to teach students changes and expands every, I don’t know, 8 seconds. You know what I’m saying?

See? On the fence. I think I’ll pull pieces of it, but I’m not thinking the model will fully work with young kids.

posted under INDT 501 | 4 Comments »

creating a video. week five.


I guess I got ahead of myself in week 4, because I not only worked myself to the bone making that silly scratch video, but I signed up for all of the things that we were supposed to be doing this week. Hmm.

I’ve been using Twitter steadily for about a week now. I’ve got a LinkedIn page, but I don’t really understand it. All I know is that Jordan wants to be my colleague (yay!). To be honest, I’m not really sure what that’s all about and how it will help me as an educator.


I can’t believe I’m saying this… I really like Twitter. Every single day, I’m bombarded (overwhelmed?) by information from literally around the globe as it relates to education, and not surprisingly, educational technology. I think it’s a fantastic tool to stay abreast of what’s happening in education and the latest inventions and ideas. I’m still trying to get the hang of the Classroom 2.0 page. I’ve already gotten a couple of “friends” on there, and I can already see that you can throw out questions or problems you’re having and people are really eager to help you figure it out. It’s a nice way to have a sense of community outside of your immediate school environment, and a great way to get fresh ideas.

Now. The music video.

I am HAPPY to report that I did not spend 12 hours working on this. I actually really loved this. I had very little technical difficulty, and when I did, I figured out what I needed to do very quickly without needing any guides or tutorials or anything like that. The most tedious part for me was going through and putting all of the photographs into an APA formatted credits page. It was challenging (in a good way) to figure out how to whittle away everything I WANTED to say into something that would just get the students’ feet wet with the information. I took a minute to look at the Virginia SOLs and chose 3rd grade since it’s basically in the middle of my certification area (PK-6). I chose Civics since that’s near and dear to my heart.

Can I stop and tell you a story? I love telling stories.

(First off, this just reminded me that I turn 29 next week. Breathe. Breathe.) So. When I was very young, I figured out that I was born on George Washington’s birthday. And this was enough to catapult me into learning everything I could about him. Everything. As I got older, that extended into learning about everything he had a hand in, whether directly or no. It is no mistake that I graduated from college with a degree in history, specializing in early and colonial America. Through a way-too-random-to-just-be-lucky (fate? maybe?) process, we ended up coming to Virginia. But not just any place in Virginia, oh no. Just minutes from George Washington’s boyhood home. I study at, where now?, The University of Mary Washington. Just today we discovered the Washington family cemetery. So cool.

Anyway. So. When I saw that there was an SOL (3.11, thank you) relating to George Washington, I said, yes please!

And thus, my video was born:

Have a looksie.

The music I chose to use feels like it’s on the verge of something, you know? Like a Revolution. It makes me feel like I’m about to be part of something extraordinary. And of course, to my geeky self, this part of history is more than extraordinary. And the “Fireworks” theme I chose speaks directly to the forming of this country and the cannon fire of war and the Star-Spangled Banner and all of that. Nothing is by accident in this video.

Now, you can’t really see the credits pages very well thanks to the particular theme I chose for my video, so I’m including it below. You know, for reference.

I am going to use this all. of. the. time. I mean, I won’t kill it or anything, but, this was so easy to do and it’s really engaging. At least I think it is. I wish I had stuff like this to ease me into lessons when I was in school. All I had was a textbook whose binding was coming loose and was held together by old gum (that’s actually true).

credits for animoto video:

cliff1066. (Photographer). (2009). Thomas jefferson. [Web Photo]. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/nostri-imago/3311609515/

JamesDeMers. (Photographer). (2012). Monticello. [Web Photo]. Retrieved from http://pixabay.com/en/monticello-dome-museum-house-home-59152/

Michiel2005. (Photographer). (2008). Schatzkammer of the hofburg. [Web Photo]. Retrieved from http://www.fotopedia.com/items/flickr-3043399119

Morville, P. (Photographer). (n.d.). Declaration of independence. [Web Photo]. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/morville/84894984/lightbox/

PublicDomainPictures. (Photographer). (2012). Washington monument. [Web Photo]. Retrieved from http://pixabay.com/en/washington-monument-tree-cherry-18052/

Seibert, F. (Photographer). (2008). American flag. [Web Photo]. Retrieved from http://fickr.com/photos/84568447@N00/2611749203

SheilaCameron. (Photographer). (2004). Jefferson memorial. [Web Photo]. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/fasterthanhotcakes/1443193618/

wallyg. (Photographer). (2009). George washington. [Web Photo]. Retrieved from http://www.fotopedia.com/items/flickr-2227423560/slideshow

wallyg. (Photographer). (2008). The signing of the constitution. [Web Photo]. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/wallyg/2975282470/

WikiImages. (Photographer). (2012). Constitution, united states. [Web Photo]. Retrieved from http://pixabay.com/en/constitution-united-states-usa-62943/

posted under INDT 501 | 6 Comments »

literacy and creativity. week four.


You know, I’m gonna get to gettin’ (that’s a Texasism, y’all) here in a second, but first, I want to tell you a little story.

March 31, 2012.

My husband and I are at the Volvo dealership here in Fredericksburg looking for a new sedan. Truth be told, I already knew exactly what I wanted, I was just poking around to see if they had it there. I’m a pretty simple person, really. The saleswoman asked me what I was interested in, I said I’d like a red one with light brown leather and a moonroof, please and thank you. Oh, but did you know that we have this and that option and hey! these little blinkie lights tell you if somebody’s in your blind spot and did you know…

Red one. Light brown leather. Moonroof. Thanks.

And then my husband chimes in, and I have to entertain him since he’s the one with the cash, if you know what I’m saying. My husband? He’s a techie geek. I repel it.

So, I got my red one with light brown leather and a moonroof. But it also has bells and whistles I can’t even remember and certainly will never use. But when he drives the car, he geeks out about it completely. There is literally nothing else that they could have put into this car; it’s got everything. Why?! Why.

Enter this week’s big assignment — the programing on scratch. I feel the same way about it — WHY?! WHY. My husband saw what I was trying to do and got all warm and fuzzy inside and was already dreaming up ways in which he can use this nifty little program. I literally cursed at my computer. Repeatedly. I am a digital immigrant, to be sure. Nevermind that I’m 28. This is not second nature to me! Things like this are so far over my head. I wasn’t kidding in my intro video when I said that technology is my weakest area. I watched the videos for how to use it. I read the guides. I still didn’t get it. I tried to start very simple, and I just could not understand what to do. I struggled with the ideas I wanted to work with because I couldn’t figure out how to make them work. Then I decided to try to make a fish eat another fish. That’s a process, right? The food chain, and all that. As I tried and tried to work with it, I just started putting in whatever I thought would make a fish move across the screen. My husband stood behind me for nearly this entire process (which spanned HOURS), laughing at me and my ridiculous fish. At one point, the fish was swimming across the screen and somehow I wrote a code to make it flip over and sink to the bottom. We both laughed pretty hard at that. I said “That’s it! I’m done! The life cycle. Right there.” My husband just had to ruin it for me kindly reminded me that I needed two sprites and 10 lines of coding each. Oh yeah, great. Fine. Get out of my office and go feed the children. Thanks. 

I spent all night trying to figure out why my fish weren’t doing what I wanted them to do. Why my music wasn’t working. Why my starfish wouldn’t skeedaddle. By the time I finally managed to get something together, it was 12:30am. 12 hours I spent working on a 20 second clip!

I think I honestly have to say that this is not one of my favorite things. I try to embrace new stuff — I’ve been tweeting like a fool. I joined Classroom 2.0. I’ve got a LinkedIn page and I even set up a google reader account. And setting up my own custom search engine was really neat. But this? This was torturous for me! It was funny in the end, but I don’t think I could repeatedly spend several hours for something so small. I bet my students would like to use it, but somebody else would have to explain it to them! There are technology teachers in schools, right?! That’s how I see using this program going down — I probably won’t use it myself, but I could see encouraging my students to try and use it. I know, I know, I’m supposed to be modeling these things for them. But you can’t win them all, and this one I lost. Horribly. I’ll also never understand algebra. I accept these things as fact and move on!

I coded my shark to swim and bounce just like the fish, and I still can’t figure out why he swims backwards. When I checked it before uploading it, he was swimming along just fine. I’m honestly afraid to go back and try to fix it because I don’t want to ruin the whole thing! Check it out — the ocean food chain:

Scratch | Project | oceanfoodchain.

Clink on the link above to see my project.

Here’s a screenshot preview:

Screen Shot 2013-02-08 at 4.09.12 PM

The end lesson here is that even though I didn’t like using this tool, I still tried my hardest to make something fun. And even though it’s not perfect, it’s the best that I have. And I think that’s a good reminder for what we’ll get from our students sometimes — and we need to remember that sometimes, it’s going to turn out a little wonky. But they’ve no doubt learned things in the process even if their project or paper or assignment isn’t quite right. That’s okay by me.

I learned how to make a custom search engine, which is going to be very useful in an elementary classroom. I thought that was really neat. I’m just starting to explore what Classroom 2.0 has to offer, but it seems like a great place to get ideas from other educators. Maybe one of them is an expert at scratch.


posted under INDT 501 | 4 Comments »

copyrights. week three.


So, this week’s task was probably made just for me. I’m pretty sure.

Grabbing the first Google image that fits what I need with no regard to who owns it or whether or not I can use it?


At least I say my source though, right? internet-25516_640

(Hi! I’m copyright friendly!)


This week’s practice was good for me, albeit frustrating. Old dogs and new tricks, and all that. Our assignment was to find a photo online that was safe for us to use, meaning it has no legal or ethical issues surrounding it, like copyright issues. I know that I’m going to ask my students to do this time and time again, and I honestly probably wouldn’t have thought very much about whether or not it had any copyright issues because it’s being used by a bunch of 2nd graders. I guess that makes me a big, fat fibber!

I’m a huge fan of using images I find online from various sources to analyze information or simply gain more information about a subject. The use of images in our instruction is crucial, especially when we’re teaching kids who are immersed in media. “Students must learn how to create meaning and communicate with visual tools. They can create digital media projects using video clips, video podcasting, and screencasting. Teachers can use images and visual presentations in the curriculum and encourage students to create presentations that develop skills of inquiry, creativity, and higher-order thinking” (Solomon & Schrum, 2010, p. 102).

So, basically… pictures are everywhere. In everything. All the time. I do need to model the best practices for my students, which means getting used to searching for images using the resources we’ve been given this week to ensure the images I do choose are free to use and share with no issues. I certainly don’t want to get into hot water for copyright infringement, and I certainly don’t want to put my students or my school in that position, either. There are still millions of photos to be found online that have licenses allowing you to share them freely. Some have stipulations, and some do not.

I chose to find a picture of a famous building in Washington, D.C (the Smithsonian Castle). I also chose not to use Google image search since that’s the one I’m used to using. Instead, I used the Flickr Creative Commons Search. I searched by filtering for “attribution,” meaning I can use the image as long as I give credit to the original owner.

I couldn’t get it off of the Flickr site and onto my blog directly, but I used the information that Dr. Coffman gave us this week on capturing screen shots to get it for you here:

Screen Shot 2013-02-03 at 10.23.02 AM

This photo belongs to Mike Nelson on Flickr.



Solomon, G., & Schrum, L. (2010). web 2.0 how-to for educators. (1st ed.). Washington, D.C.: International Society for Technology in Education.

posted under INDT 501 | 2 Comments »

the technology integration matrix. week one.


Here we are, starting a brand new semester with a brand new class. This time, I’m enrolled in an Instructional Technologies course. I’ll be blogging mostly about things that fall under this realm. Happy to have you along for the ride. Without further ado, here we go:

This week, we’ve been asked to look at the Technology Integration Matrix, which is a matrix invented by some folks at the University of South Florida. It was originally designed in 2005, and has been updated since. It’s goal is to “illustrate how teachers can use technology to enhance learning for K-12 students” (Florida Center for Instructional Technology). You can view the matrix here. I strongly suggest that you go ahead and take a look at it if you aren’t familiar with it, or the rest of this blog won’t make a lick of sense to you. The goal for this week’s blog is to find an example on the matrix that I think works very well, as well as one that seems sketchy. (For the record, my endorsement area is PreK – 6, so these are the grade levels that I’m going to be concerned with.) In addition, I will supply my own example of technology use the classroom and try to fit it into one of the matrix’s 25 cells.

compelling example: 

I chose a 5th grade science example off of the matrix. Its classifiers are Collaborative Learning, Adoption Level. In the example, the students are using a white board to learn the states of matter (you know, solid, liquid, and gas?). In addition to the super-cool white board, they all have interactive clickers that they can use to answer yes/no, true/false questions. They get immediate feedback! The teacher can immediately tell if her students are having a problem with a concept, and the entire class can participate in getting to the right place.

I really love this for a lot of reasons. First, you can tell that the students are really familiar with the technology and that they love using it. In the student interviews, they all seem really excited about it and they specifically address how cool it is that they can figure out if they’re wrong right then and there instead of waiting for the teacher to grade a paper or come around to their desks. This seems like a wonderful way to put technology into the classroom that allows students to interact and engage with each other and the teacher in a non-threatening way that really gets them thinking.

sketchy example:

I had to click around for a while before I found an example that seemed like a waste to me, but it was there! I chose a 3rd-5th grade level keyboarding assignment. Its classifiers are Active, Entry. In this example, a teacher has her students do keyboarding work every single morning in hopes that when they do actual assignments using the computer, they won’t take as long typing because they’ll be all speedy-gonzales about it thanks to the daily keyboarding tasks.

First of all, 3rd through 5th grade?! I can think of so many other things to have them do for daily morning work. Typing words that pop up on a 2D shark doesn’t really make it that high on my priority list. In my opinion, the students will get the practice they  need with on the job training, so to speak. Sure, they might start out a little slowly, but they’ll get the hang of it without wasting that precious morning time on something like beefing up their words per minute. I can’t imagine that typing quickly is a part of the curriculum, anyway. According to the Florida Center for Instructional Technology, the “active” level has students discovering, processing, and applying their learning; engagement is also a key part of this level. “Entry” has teachers delivering curriculum content to students, and this level typically is designed to build fluency with drill and practice routines (n.d.). I’d give it the second half of that, but again, the teacher’s stated goal of just wanting her students to be faster typists doesn’t really match up to delivering curriculum content to me.

my own example, defined:

I’ll use a lesson that I actually did while I was student teaching in college several years ago. I was in an 11th grade history class in a suburb of Austin, Texas. I was actually specifically supposed to do a technology lesson, and my mentor teacher told me that they had a smart board in the library I could use. She hadn’t had much training on it, and I had never heard of a smart board before. But, I gave it a try. I took the class to the library and we set up in the computer lab, which is where the smart board was located. The goal of my lesson was multi-faceted: I wanted to teach them about immigration, and also about primary sources. Oh, and also about using technology. I used the smart board to introduce them to Ellis Island (yay, virtual tours!) and we listened to some stories from immigrants read by actors. I also used the board to navigate to the Library of Congress website, where I showed them how to look for primary sources. Once I gave them a run down, I turned them loose in groups on their computers and their assignment was to go on an online scavenger hunt for information on a specific immigrant I’d picked out and assigned to their groups at random (I made sure that there were primary sources to be found beforehand). They got to come up to the smart board in their groups to show us the things they found on their computers relating to their assignment.

This was a little tricky for me to figure out, but I’m pretty sure that this fits into collaborative learning since we all worked together and then they worked in groups, but then I also feel like it might fit into the authentic learning environment because they were learning about the real world and real people in it instead of abstract dates and facts about immigrants. I think that my lesson’s second classifier would be adaptation because the students explored and worked independently using the computers/internet and smart board.  


Here’s a photo I found online — to me, it illustrates a use of technology that’s super cool and super pointless all at one time:

(image source: http://www.journal-news.com/news/news/technology-turns-the-classroom-upside-down/nR995/)

Learning to write on a tablet? Cool! Learning to write on a tablet with your pointer finger instead of a stylus to mimic pencil-holding? Pointless. This seems to me like it should fit in the active, entry cell of the matrix.




Florida Center for Instructional Technology. (n.d.). The technology integration matrix. Retrieved from http://fcit.usf.edu/matrix/index.php


posted under INDT 501 | 2 Comments »