Sunday, December 8, 2013

Technology Integration Unit - Country Exchange

During the past few weeks, I have been working on a technology enriched learning unit. This unit combines the study of geography and 21st century learning skills. Students are asked to determine how geography affects culture, and they are participating in an email exchange with students from the countries they are studying.

Follow this link to view the Unit Plan.

The Unit Plan can also be found on My Website.

Final Reflective Report

Unit - Geography Exchange - A Technology Enhanced Unit

In this unit,  I collaborated with Ms. Stolfi, a seventh grade social studies teacher. The student learning objective for our unit was 1) students will perform research to produce a multimedia presentation on a country and 2) students will participate in an email exchange with a student from the country they are researching.  Our learning objectives centered on student use of technology. They were to 1) introduce and have students use Google Docs/Drive, 2)have students collaborate and write online, and 3) have students practice proper online etiquette during email exchanges. Thus far, I am pleased with the outcome of this unit.  Students have been receptive to the project. They are using the technology tools we have introduced them to. They have learned to use Google Docs, and have learned how to share Google documents for commenting. They are using Google Docs to collaborate on documents related to their research, and are currently in the process of researching information and applying thoughtful evaluation to their online sources.  They are also participating in an email exchange with students from the countries they are researching, and  have sent out their first email.

Our initial plan to use iEarn for this project did not work out.  Instead,  I was able to find another solution for students to use for their email exchange.  Students are using to communicate with students from the countries they are researching. Epals is a robust global classroom collaboration network. It contains numerous resources to engage students. These include an email exchange system, learning games,  and discussion boards on books, movies, and other topics that are of interest to young students.  Epals’ secure internal email system allows the classroom teacher to monitor all student email exchanges.  This monitoring system assures safe and appropriate email exchanges.  Through, I was able to establish a working collaboration for this project with teachers from France, Italy, and England. The French and Italian students are learning English. Within the email system, there is also a built-in translator that can be used by our French and Italian epal students.  The epals enhancement to the unit has motivated students to eagerly participate in the project. They are excited about having a friend abroad.  As we read our students’ initial emails, we see they are being thoughtful about their writing. They are being very creative about  what they want to share and what they want to learn from their epals. They are being courteous and are asking questions of their epals thus creating opportunities for discussion and conversation.  I am very happy for them, and I am pleased to see their desire to participate in the email exchange.

In addition to the email exchange, students have the task of developing a multimedia presentation from their research. Students have been taught how to evaluate websites using the 5Ws.  I stress the need of their thoughtful evaluation of online sources at the onset of every class.  As I move through the classroom checking on the work and progress of groups,  I check the online sources that student groups are using. At times, I have had to specifically point out sources that are questionable and have asked to see their website evaluation checklist. The checklist is a tool that guides them in determining the validity and credibility of a website. It helps students take a critical look at websites. I believe the use of the website evaluation checklist needs to be reinforced until students can intuitively evaluate a website for credibility. As students turn more and more to the Internet for their information needs, evaluating the credibility and validity of online information is critical for them.

My students were amused with the shared editing features of Google docs. They were excited to see the different colors assigned to each collaborator working on a shared  document. I encourage students to use standard group roles (researcher/navigator, recorder, reader) to work, and suggest they rotate the roles at each new class. I explained that this would give them the opportunity to share ideas and perform different jobs that are essential for their group.  Collaboration and the ability for students to work together is important.  I believe there is an opportunity in this project to improve how students work in groups.

Recently, a student expressed her dislike of working in groups and expressed her preference of working independently.  This reminded of the need to provide students with a choice of how they want to work either in a group or independently.  I explained to Hannah that we wanted students to work in groups to share ideas and discuss research findings.  I have observed Hannah in her group. She is quiet and listens to others, and completes tasks she is asked to work on by others in her group. I have reviewed group roles and expectations with Hannah’s group.  I have been encouraging her participation by prompting her to share her thoughts. I have made a note to modify this project in the future  to allow for students to either work in groups or independently.

My collaboration efforts with Ms. Stolfi has been a positive experience. The ability to share documents with her using Google Drive has been a great asset for our collaboration.  Much of the technology integration of this unit is new for our students. The students of this project are the first, at my school, to use Meriden’s Gmail account system. It was a learning experience for me and my collaborator as we used the gmail system with our students.  I have learned a great deal from this experience and plan to share with other teachers who are interested in using this technology with their students.  We have received positive feedback from administration and teachers who have inquired about the project.  The use of epals has been of special interest to other teachers who would like to explore the possibility of using this resource with their classes.

At this time, students are in the final steps of their project. All presentations must be completed by December 13th.  Students have received email responses from England. We are waiting for email responses from Italy and France.  The technology enhancements made to this unit have resulted in improved student learning. Students are using tools and resources that are relevant. They are developing and practicing 21st century learning skills. They are using the Internet to locate information and collaborate with others. They are evaluating online sources and collaborating with their group members to synthesize the information they have found.They are aware of the importance of using proper online etiquette in communicating with others online. These are skills that will help my students succeed in and out of the classroom.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The 5Ws of Website Evaluation

Assignment 720 - Discussion Director Response/Classroom Integration

E-Journal - Week on November 18, 2013

Evaluating the Accuracy of Materials - Evaluating websites.

Today’s lesson focussed on evaluating websites for credibility and accuracy.  Not everything we read is the truth, especially when we are reading online.  

The objective is to make students aware of the need to look at online information critically, and to have them apply a set of guidelines to determine the usability and credibility of a website.

The method for website evaluation my students will use is the 5Ws (Who, What, When, Where, and Why).

Classroom discussion and student participation is encouraged to make the evaluation of websites meaningful and relevant for the students.  After introducing the lesson, I prompted students to share experiences of situations in which they found online information to be questionable.   The responses I received pointed sharply at their frustration in finding information they could use.  Most students never considered that websites could be wrong and misleading.   Many relied on websites their teachers had given them for information.

In the classroom, a poster of the 5Ws of Website Evaluation is prominently displayed. I began by sharing a video, and The 5Ws of Website Evaluation checklist.

After the video, we began to review each step of the 5Ws.  During the “What step”, the concept of bias surfaced.  Students were unsure of what bias meant. Bias is an important concept for students to grasp as they venture through various online sources, especially when determining the credibility and usefulness of websites produced by organizations.  As a class, we looked at This organization promotes year round schooling. Students were drawn and interested in learning about what educators and parents have to say about going to school year round. We looked for information on the website that showed why year round school may not be good.  We concluded that the website only presented information that supported year round schooling.  The website was a good way of showing how “.org” websites may only present information that supports their organization’s views, and therefore may be considered biased. I plan to revisit the topic of “bias” with my students. It is an important concept for students to understand and is valuable in helping them become discerning users of online information.

We proceeded to review the 5Ws of Website Evaluation checklist.  Students were asked to use the checklist in their evaluation of three websites:

The Tree octopus  

Google Search Technology

During this activity, it was interesting to see students comb through the websites and apply the 5 Ws. Students discussed the ability of octopi to live in trees and the speed of which Google's trained pigeons returned search results.  

As part of their larger learning unit, students will be asked to apply the skills they’ve learned in this lesson to their online research task.

In Colin Harrison’s, Thirteen Ways at looking at a Blackboard Chapter 38a of the New Literacies Handbook, Harrison analyzes a study conducted by Rachel A. Karchmer, The Journey Ahead, Chapter 38 of New Literacies Handbook (page 1241). Harrison reflects on how technology has changed literacy and teaching practices.  Harrison notes  that today’s Internet availability, and the ease of connecting to the Internet for both students and teachers creates an increasing need to confirm and check the information we find on the Internet. I agree with Harrison. Evaluating the veracity of websites is an essential New Literacy skill that are students need to practice in order for them to become Internet literate.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Reflection of Critical Friends Review of Instructional Unit

I am very pleased to have the opportunity to enhance my Geography unit and incorporate some of the methods and strategies that I have been learning about in my Instructional Technology & Digital Media Literacy classes.

In particular, the opportunity to provide students the choice of how they want to present their research, and adding the iEarn collaboration piece. Providing students with the choice of how they want to present their research will be a motivator for students.  They will be able to use online tools and incorporate multimedia formats.  I think this will improve their product.

Additionally, by expanding the project to include the iEarn collaboration, I feel my students will want to research their countries and learn as much about them in preparation for their collaboration with peers from the countries they are researching. iEarn will be very engaging for them.

My Critical Friends were very supportive of the unit, especially the iEarn component.  I feel this is a very powerful and engaging enhancement to the unit. It is also the component I have the most concern with.   In order for students to successfully collaborate with their peers from other countries, there has to be timely  communication. Monitoring communication between students and specifying guidelines for communications is a must. My Critical Friends suggested a B-Plan as an alternative in the event the collaboration with the iEarn Project - A Day in the Life doesn’t work out. I think this is a good idea.  I will evaluate and consider alternative sites to use with my students. I am currently exploring Students of the World. There are pen pal opportunities for Argentina, Morocco, Yemen, and Thailand. It’s always a good idea to have a B-Plan!

Presenting my unit of student to my Critical Friends was a great way to gain feedback.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Using Google Sites to Build my Website

Using Google Sites I started building my website to share information and resources with my students and staff. After reviewing the various themes and templates, I decided to experiment building my website using a Google Site template. Building a website using a template was a learning experience.  At first I struggled with understanding the template and the relationship between the predefined pages.   Once I began playing and experimenting, I began to understand how the template was organizing pages and the process of creating and modifying pages became easier.

In case you're thinking of using a Google Site template, I used the Classroom template. Using this template, I used the "More" button at the top of main home page a lot. The more button offers a drop down  menu with the options "Edit Site Layout" and "Manage Site". Edit Site Layout was important in modifying the side navigation panel.

One particular area I found troublesome was removing the "template text" within template pages. There is instructional text provided by Google within template pages that must be deleted prior to publishing.  Once I realized that the "template text" had to be removed in template pages, I began to remove it as I modified and added text to a page.

Creating new pages was easy. These are blanks pages that you position within the organization of the template. Once I understood the organization of the template, building new page and placing them where I wanted was not difficult.

My website needs pictures! I will add pictures as I continue to refine it. It wasn't difficult to include the one picture I have.  I don't expect adding pictures to be a problem.   I've started building and including tutorials that I've created.  I plan to add more tutorials and more website resources.

My website is only available with this link.  It's a work in progress!  Take a look and let me know what you think.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Discussion Director

How I used Google Hangouts on Air

This week I had the opportunity to be the Discussion Director for my ED 720 Central Issues and Research in New Literacies class. The required reading for the week was, The Handbook on New Literacies Chapters 9 and 10. In this reading, our class took a close look at the implications of using the Web in the classroom and how students navigate through the Web. As discussion director, I developed 2 prompts for my classmates to discuss. My focus was to learn how others are using the Web and what challenges/workarounds they’re finding.  I also wanted to gain insight in what they see their students doing when they search the web.  My prompts:

Prompt #1
The Web is increasingly being used as text for the classroom. What challenges exist when using the Web in the classroom? What practices can you use to overcome these challenges?

Prompt #2
A student’s Web navigation ability has an impact on learning from the Web. How do your students navigate the Web? What characteristics are you observing? How can you help students navigate the Web to gain knowledge?

As Discussion Director, I gave a choice on how they could respond to the prompts. They could write their response and post it within  Google Groups or they could participate in a video chat using Google Hangouts.  I was excited about using Google Hangouts for discussion as it would offer those in attendance a chance for real time discussion. I was hoping for an active discussion.  My challenge was how to record the hangout. I turned  to Google to research recording hangouts. I found several options and chose to use Screencast-O-Matic, free screen recording software.   The result was poor audio and the upload to Youtube was extremely slow. Here is the of the hangout recording using Screencast-O-Matic.
The video was good the audio was not good. I was disappointed after listening because we had a good discussion.

My instructor, Ian O’Byrne suggested I try Hangout on Air and change the privacy rights on the recording. The following day I used Hangout on Air and it resulted in recording a great discussion.  The audio was perfect. The recording went straight to Youtube, no need to upload. There is no time limit. It was very easy to use. Click on the link to watch.

Being Discussion Director was a very good experience. I thought the discussions went well.  Everyone showed knowledge of the topic. It was evident they did their reading and made reference to the reading. My classmates seemed ready and eager to discuss.  

I’ve received good feedback on using the hangouts on air as the means for discussion. Things I might have changed include specifically asking hangout participants to write a comment on the discussion. I would have also have been more specific about the assignment. There was some confusion over which prompts to respond to and where to post responses.

Thank you for the opportunity.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

My Learning Hub

In an effort to help my students easily locate information resources, I will develop a digital learning hub.  In this space I hope to provide them with information about working online, links to online resources, and a place to showcase their work. I plan to use Google sites to create my learning hub. I have been using other Google applications (docs, forms, and presenter) and hope that by staying within the Google umbrella an opportunity to easily integrate these other Google applications exist.

My learning hub will include:

  • Information and reminders about being good online citizens. Policies on Bring Your Own Device. I plan to use text, pictures, and videos.

  • Links to reference sites such as atlases, encyclopedias, almanacs, dictionaries and thesauruses, and Khan Academy.

  • Video tutorials on how to perform research tasks such as using Google image search and other power searching options of Google.  Other tutorials on new technologies such as Google docs. My school is beginning to use Google docs.

  • Promote reading - Creating  1) “Wildcat Reads”, a student generated list of must reads. 2) links to sites that contain free digital reading resources.  3) Incorporating a space for students to leave recommendations on books that should be purchased for the school library 4) Video of student book talks.

  • Showcase student work - video book talks, and student generated Public Service Announcements such as BYOD and Positive Behavior Support

This is my initial plan. I expect adjustments will be needed as I develop and implement my learning hub. I am excited about the opportunity. I feel it will be a source of information for my students and also a way to showcase their work and ideas. I will be sharing my progress with you.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Reflection of Personal Learning Environments

Review a plan to Create and Curate your Digital Identity from one of your peers in this class. What did you learn about yourself when looking at your PLE? How does your PLE compare to other peers in class? Compare the similarities and differences between yours and your classmate’s diagrams and plans.

As I read and compared my plan to create and curate my digital identity with that of my colleagues’, I noticed that based on our professional needs, we’ve curated and selected what we wanted to include in our learning environments. Our learning environments  centered on our individual learning needs and interests. There are similarities in the tools and practices related to our professional development.  I also see a difference in the scope of the plans and in the way they were organized. We have created our networks of learning and even though they differ they meet our needs.

One common node in all of the plans I reviewed is our participation in the IT&DML program.  Our IT&DML program is presently the most significant source of our professional development.  Through it, we are gaining the knowledge and skills we need to teach digital literacy.   We are:
  • learning about theories, models, and dispositions about online reading, writing, and  learning
  • exploring and experimenting with tools we hope to use with our students
  • collaborating and discussing how to effectively teach students using online tools
  • building professional development relationships that will keep us up to date on best practices to use technology with our students   

The second similarity between our posts is the inclusion of blogs.    Digital media literacies are new literacies brought about by the Internet. The practices and tools we use to help our students develop digital literacy skills are new.  Our blogs serve as journals in which we document and reflect on our practices and experiences related to teaching digital literacy.  By reading and commenting on each other’s blogs, we are learning. The inclusion of maintaining a blog as a professional development tool is a practice that will help us to improve our teaching.

One difference in my plan from the others that I viewed is in scope.  I included my digital learning hub as part of my plan.  This is where I will place my collection of tools and resources that I will offer my students and patrons.  My digital learning hub will host what I produce as a result of my personal learning and is a part of my online identity.

Another difference, is in the way the plans were organized.  One approach I believe will be very helpful is how Joan Robinson organized her plan. Her main nodes reflect her personal learning needs and she identifies the resources that can help meet those needs. I thought this approach to be reflective and representative of student centered connective learning.

I enjoyed looking at and reviewing the blogs.  It was a good learning activity.

Network Learning Project - Beginning Yoga

Network Learning Project - Beginning Yoga

I have met my network learning project objective. My learning objective was to introduce myself to Yoga.  I wanted to take the mystery out of Yoga before I formally attended class. I believe I have a much better understanding of Yoga practices.  I have shared my project with an avid Yogini and I will be attending a class with her soon. Through this lesson I curated resources for those interested in beginning Yoga. Click on the link to view a presentation on some of the information I found on the Internet about Yoga.

There are scores of free resources online for someone interested in starting Yoga.  For example, I used yoga forums, blogs, associations, and videos to learn about Yoga. I wanted to use different types of resources.  This led me to Pinterest. Within Pinterest, I spent several hours exploring various magazines and videos on Yoga. I also found Pinterest to be very robust and found information about my other interests in children’s books and teaching.  I did  make a Yoga board with resources aimed at the Yoga beginner. I haven’t fully explored Pinterest. It’s a resource I would like to play with. In terms of exercising, Youtube was by far the most useful resource for learning how to enter and perform Yoga poses. I went through several Youtube videos looking for videos that explained the pose in a clear and concise manner.  

Meditation was my favorite practice. Once I found music and focussed on my breathing, I found meditation to be very relaxing and calming. I started with 10 minutes a day and am now sitting quietly for 20 minutes every morning.  

This project was extremely helpful to me.  I feel more confident about attending Yoga class. I am looking forward to my formal class.  I believe Yoga practice will be beneficial to my health and well being.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Mindmapping My Digital Identity

Using  I mapped how I plan to develop and enhance my digital identity.  I plan to start development by focusing on three areas,  my blog, my personal learning network, and my digital learning hub.  The mind map visually represents how I want to build up my digital identity.  The three areas are  represented in a different color and show subordinate details.   My blog is in blue. In my blog, I will write about my teaching practices and reflect on lessons and tools I have utilized in the classroom. I hope to develop and perfect practices based on comments and my personal reflection.  My audience are my colleagues and other interested professionals.  

The second area of my plan, represented in green, is my personal learning network. This area includes informational websites, networks, communities, and groups of professionals that share my similar interests and from which I can learn.  This area is representative of my professional development. I also expect to collaborate and work with my peers and participate in discussions about areas of learning that impact my students.

The third area of my plan, represented in red, is my my digital learning hub. Recently, I have been focusing and contemplating the development of this area.  This area of my online identity reflects the goals and learning objectives I have for my students. My digital learning hub will be a learning resource for my students to use. I plan to include video tutorials on how to use various tools and how to perform tasks such as searching for images that have a usage right “free to use or share”. Thus far, I have created one video tutorial on how to use Animoto software.  I am planning on targeting other tools such as the mind mapping tool,, that I used to create the above mindmap.   In addition, I plan to also include links to free websites that students can use in their research. These include such website as ICONN, CIA World Facts, and Nations Encyclopedia.  In my digital learning hub, I will also include online materials that students will use during assignments. For example, materials needed for a website evaluation lesson will be stored in my digital learning hub.  The learning hub will offer quick and easy access to these materials.  Student can review materials and concepts as needed.  I also plan to add to my digital learning hub a series of booktalks made by students. Throughout the years, I have collected several video booktalks of books from our school’s library collection. My digital learning hub will serve as an interface for booktalks. This will be helpful to students in search of that “just right” book. It will also be a motivator for student who are creating the booktalk because their booktalks will be available on the digital learning hub for others to view.

I am eager to begin the work of building up my digital identity.  I have already started the initial identity maintenance by changing my Google profile to display the information I want.   I believe by building up my digital identity I will be empowered and I will in turn empower my students.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Network Learning Project Update - Practicing Yoga

I have started practicing what I’ve learned from the online learning resources I have gathered.  Last week, I meditated every morning for 10 minutes and started practicing yoga poses. I found video resources for yoga beginners to help with yoga poses.  After every yoga session I reflected and recorded the reflections using Evernote. I’ve shared below my reflections and a sample of the video tutorial for the yoga poses.  I am very pleased with the resources I have found to  get started with yoga.

Yoga Reflections
Tuesday AM meditation - uncomfortable for back - distracted by environmental sound - find meditation music to listen to while meditating.
Focus on breathing properly - How do I empty my mind again? 10 mins go by fast!
Wednesday AM meditation-  Uncomfortable back must research - much better with music - work on breathing and emptying mind?
Thursday - Meditate. Turned timer off to keep going😌
It was most helpful to review meditation video.

Watched Warrior 1 pose video, it’s for beginners and promotes weight loss.
Moving into Warrior 1 Pose

Reflection on Warrior 1 pose - Tried it, is this for beginners? Awkward balance. Need to review.
Friday AM
Childs Pose
Meditation is relaxing!
Very helpful to review Warrior 1 pose. Correct balance by stretching legs in opposing direction. Next challenge is breathing.
Childs pose is relaxing and stretching feels great.


Using Animoto

Animoto Tutorial

After much consideration, I decided to create a video tutorial on Animoto.  Animoto is a free online video creator.  I was searching for a free tool that my students could use to create short videos on various topics.  I want them to have the ability to import video, images, and to include text.  I especially wanted the software to be easy to use.    I experimented and played with Mozilla Popcorn Maker. Popcorn maker meets all my requirements except for its ease of use.   What I liked about Popcorn maker was its ability to easily import videos from YouTube and other services.  I also liked the ability to link and include articles from Wikipedia.  These are all very nice features that Popcorn Maker has.  However,  after playing, I felt that it was not as easy to use. Popcorn Maker’s interface is a little complex. As you add events, or content, it creates layers that superimpose other content. Also, changing the background and color of text requires the hexadecimal html code. For these reasons I did not pursue usage.  I want to focus on the learning objective, not the tool.  I feel Animoto is a good choice for students because of its easy interface.  

With any video project, I recommend you have a clear purpose and know your audience. Always storyboard the project on paper.  Draw out the images and include the text.  Create a space, a folder, and put all the content you will be using in the folder.   Once your paper storyboard is complete, you can use your tool to begin building your video.  

There are many classroom applications for Animoto. In my classroom, one lesson I am planning is to have students use Animoto to create booktalks on a book of their choice. Their booktalks will be shared on our school’s daily television broadcast and also shared on the new book talk page of our library’s website. I like Animoto’s 30 second length limit. It gives students enough time to get their message across and makes student work in a thoughtful  and concise manner. In order to generate discussion on books, I would like to  a way for students to comment on each other’s videos.  I will also investigate any potential problems with student email addresses and account creations.  I believe it will be worth the effort in order to get students using Animoto in the classroom.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Network Learning Project Updates

Since my last blog. I have found great resources to further my introduction to yoga.  I have created a Pinterest Board called Yoga for Beginners. The board has six pins that include meditation videos and beginner yoga poses.

Using Animoto, I have documented why I selected to introduce myself to yoga as my network learning project. I used advanced Google search to find images with usage right that were free to use and share.

Using Coggle, I’ve organized my information and have mind mapped how I will present the information.  I started creating a slide presentation in Google Docs with the information that I've gathered.

In terms of applying what I have learned, I decided to start my yoga practice with simple mantra meditation.

My asana, is my bedroom and I am using Sukhasana, a very simple sit down pose, to perform mantra meditation. Mantra meditation is good for finding your stillness within, a state of mind of positiveness.  It requires deep breathing. As you inhale your abdomen extends out. Upon exhale, you pull your abdomen in. Mantra meditation requires chanting. The words you chant can be an expression, a prayer, a line from your favorite poem, any words that hold a special meaning to you are appropriate.  Om, is a mantra that is often used.  Om means relaxation, meditation, and harmony.  During meditation, the mantra is repeated while inhaling deeply and exhaling.  You should be aware of your breath and follow its flow.  You should continue to repeat your mantra and focus on your breath. Beginners can count their breath as they inhale to gain focus. Breathing should be deep and focused. Your thoughts will begin to shift to the noise of everyday life. As this happen refocus again on your breathing and continue to count. During meditation you should be aware of everything inside.   

By meditating, you are bringing the brain into a relaxed state, the body follows. Breathing is very important.

The benefits of meditation are many. They include better sleep, more creativity and intelligence, and lower blood pressure.  Sounds good to me!