EDU 305 | Final Blog

The knowledge and skills I have gained from EDU 305 will benefit not only me as a future teacher but my future students as well. In this day and age, not incorporating technology appropriately and effectively in a classroom provides a disservice for our students. Minimalizing the use of 21st century technology tools in a classroom is unfair to our students considering it is essential for them to grow up knowing and having experience with the technological skills that are gained by working with those 21st century tools. Technology is the future of our society, and therefore incorporating it in an elementary classroom can only benefit our students for the better.

Although I faced several challenges along the way, after completing the course I can confidently say that I learned about how to use technology that will benefit me and my future classroom, as well as what types of technology/programs to use in order for it to be effective. Before taking this course, I had never worked with programs such as Kidspiration, Smart technology, Storybird, Microsoft Photo Story, and Voki. I had never used spreadsheets and databases in the academic setting. These technological tools can be used not only to present information in a creative and unique way, but they are user-friendly and appropriate enough for the students to use them as a way to gather, organize, and present information.

Along with learning the skills to implement technological tools in the classroom, EDU 305 forced me to re-visit my creativity skills that I tucked away in the back of my brain several years ago. Creativity has definitely taken a backseat in education in the past decade, but with the use of technology we can strengthen our personal creativity skills as well as our students’. For example, instead of completing a worksheet or answering questions about a reading passage, students could use Storybird or Zimmer Twins to create their very own story from a different perspective/point of view of the reading passage. No matter what the assignment may be, the technological skills and creativity that students are forced to use during the activity will only enhance their experiences with technology as they grow up.

Many teachers in this day and age find technology to be too overwhelming and too difficult to learn and implement; however, thanks to this course I feel more comfortable and confident using new technology tools in the classroom and am no longer overwhelmed or intimidated by new technology tools.

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EDU 305 | Third Blog

The opportunities I have had exploring and creating professional blogs in this course have provided me a totally different perspective on them. Before taking this course, I viewed blogs as a way to share personal experiences, such as study abroad. However since taking this course I now can see how useful blogs can be in an academic setting, whether that means having the students create informational blogs on a specific subject or creating a professional blog for parents to learn important information, dates, and to see what we are currently working on in the classroom. A professional classroom blog is easily accessible for parents and easily manipulated and modified from the teacher and students. I may be biased, but I find WordPress to be the best blog site to use; it is user friendly, allows pictures and videos on blog posts, and allows you to “follow” and comment on other blogs. A classroom blog serves as an online communicative newsletter, but unlike a traditional newsletter it allows the parents to easily communicate back to the teacher by one click of a button, rather than the parent having to write a note or email to the teacher after reading a newsletter. Parents could follow the class blog and stay updated on current classroom/school-wide events and dates, and could comment with questions and concerns for the teacher. I find a classroom blog to be very beneficial for both the teacher and the parents, and plan on using one in my future classroom.

I chose to first explore the Animoto site in search for how I could use it in my classroom. Animoto is a web 2.0 tool that can be used to create video slideshows to communicate information to students. It could also be used by the students to share and present information they gather about a specific assignment topic, whether it be a historical figure, a country, a type of animal, etc. One aspect of Animoto that I find appealing is that it allows the user to create and view the video slideshow via computer, a phone, or a tablet. Therefore the students have more opportunities to create Animoto videos using technology other than a computer. One drawback to this web tool is that because it was not created to be used solely in the classroom, there are no boundaries when it comes to students creating video slideshows. Teachers must set these boundaries and discuss video appropriateness before allowing students to take on the task of creating their own video slideshows using Animoto.

GoAnimate is another tool that can be used to create and share animated videos. Unlike Animoto, this site provides animated characters and backgrounds that can be used to create fun and interactive videos. Although this site is similar to Animoto in that it allows for video creations, GoAnimate seems to be more appropriate for teachers to use at the introduction of a lesson unit or to teach a topic that otherwise may seem boring or uninteresting to the students. After exploring the site, the one drawback that I found was the site subscriptions. The site allows the user to do very little without paying for a subscription to use the tools to create and produce videos. However, the subscription may be beneficial for a teacher who finds the videos to be useful in the classroom.

I also explored Voki, a tool that creates speaking avatars that can be used to communicate information to students in a unique way. Although I find the avatars to be somewhat creepy, I can imagine that students would love the idea of an avatar talking to them! Vokis could be used to introduce a lesson, assign homework or projects, and so much more. One aspect of Voki that I find very appealing is that the user can control what language the avatar speaks in; this could be so beneficial for an ESL student or when teaching another language to a class.

By allowing students to use these web tools in the classroom to create and produce information instead of completing a worksheet or taking a test, students are reaching a deeper, more meaningful level of Bloom’s taxonomy and are taking control of their own learning.

Since my last blog post, I have gained experience creating and working with spreadsheets and databases. Although I have had previous experiences using both of these tools, I feel that the assignments were very beneficial for me as a future teacher. It has been a long time since I used spreadsheets, so the assignment was a great refresher for me. I have a feeling I will use spreadsheets very often in my classroom to organize and manage grades, attendance, and more. Even though we use databases almost every day, I have never used the Microsoft Access software to create my own database.  Once I explored the program, made a few mistakes, and watched several tutorial videos I finally figured out how to create and use a database (it was one of those experiences where I had to struggle to succeed, but now that I know how to use Access, I don’t feel I will struggle as much in the future). I really like how the database program can save information so that once you enter all the information into the database, you do not have to go back and re-type each time you want to use the information.

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EDU 305 | Second Blog

For my first blog review post, I explored Richard Byrne’s blog at http://www.freetech4teachers.com/. One aspect that makes Byrne’s educational blog site stand out among the others is the various educational avenues he provides for teachers. As mentioned in the first blog post, Byrne provides information on a different app, website, or gadget every week that can be used and incorporated in the classroom. He provides video links, website links, tutorial links, and so much more. By providing these diverse and unique teaching sources, he is providing the opportunity for teachers to use them in order to serve various learning styles and abilities. For example, the ESL students could use the video links to become more familiar with site words, songs, and stories that we will be discussing at some point during the lesson unit. The academically gifted students could explore an area of interest within the lesson unit we are currently working on and create their own blog post using the student-friendly blog links he provides to display his/her exploration findings. We could also use these links as whole class discussions and have them displayed on the interactive white board for the students to actively participate during the lesson. Needless to say, the opportunities to use the links and sources he provides are endless! It is important to remember that all students have something to bring to the table, and these resources allow their strengths to shine in the classroom.

I spent a great amount of time exploring the http://edjudo.com/web-2-0-teaching-tools-links site. The first program I chose to explore was the Zimmer Twins site. This site provides free access to creating movies and animated stories, either from scratch or using pre-existing unfinished stories. The site provides examples of stories that teachers and students have made it the past, as well as tutorials about how to make an animated story. It is classroom-friendly, meaning it allows teachers to have class account and allow access to up to 40 students per class (however a downfall to this feature is that the user must purchase the tool before allowing the class access to it). After exploring the site for less than 5 minutes, I had already figured out how to make an account and create an animated story. The only other drawback I found when exploring this site is that (as far as I can tell) you cannot send the story as a mass email; it asks you to share it with individual email accounts, which could be a hassle if you want to share it with other teachers, parents, or even the students. Even still, the site seems like a great tool to use to create fun and creative animated stories for the students to view and create their own.

The second program I chose to explore was the Jing site. This site allows the user to capture an screenshot image of what is displayed on the computer screen, record what is on the screen along with what is said during the recording, and easily share the images and videos through email and other social media. I immediately thought about how useful this site could be when a teacher flips a classroom; the video could be used as a tutorial and could be easily shared on the class website or through email to allow the students to view it before they come to class.  The only downfall that I found when exploring the site is that the videos have a five minute limit; however, this could simply be a part of the flipped classroom video when the teacher wants the students to see a document or learn how to use a specific website or another technological tool that appears blurry or unclear when using a regular video camera. The 5 minute limit also, according to the website, is limited for instant, focused communication. You get to the point and share what is needed to be shared in a timely fashion.

Since my last blog post, I have gained experience creating a Storybird animated story, a digital story using Microsoft Photo Story 3, and a Kidspiration interactive activity. These are three technological tools that I had no previous experience with; therefore I learned a great amount from each of these assignments. I found the digital story using Photo Story to be the least difficult assignment of the three. Once I researched and found what area of internet safety I wanted to focus on, I enjoyed writing a short story, taking pictures, adding audio, and watching the finished product. After completing the assignment, I definitely believe that Photo Story is a great tool that I will definitely use in the classroom when teaching a unit or content that may otherwise require the traditional standing-in-front-of-the-class-lecturing teaching strategy. It makes the teaching even more exciting/fun for me, and the students will love it, too! I found Storybird to be the most difficult assignment of the three, simply because I felt I was limited to using the pictures that the artists on the sites provided. It took me much longer to create a story using Storybird, because not only did I have to think of a story topic that I wanted to focus on, I then had to find pictures that matched that topic and that could be used throughout a short story. Once I viewed my completed product I was happy with what had been created, but the creating process was not the best experience for me individually. Nevertheless, I am grateful for these experiences and will remember these helpful and creative resources when I have my own classroom and am looking for creative and exciting ways to teach lesson units.

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EDU 305 | Storybird

Storybird is an online tool that allows the user to easily create short picture book stories from various artists’ pieces of work. The site allows you to create the picture book, share it, print it, or simply read it from the site. It is a great tool that can be used when focusing on a specific content area by allowing the students to experience the content in a creative and unique way. I chose to create my Storybird on a cat named Carly and her friends. I found the tool to be relatively easy to use; I searched for the art that I found inspiring, explored the various other pieces of art by the same artist, and created the story based on the pictures. The only struggle that I faced during this experience was finding more than one picture of the same cartoon or image. It was important for the visual of the main character to remain consistent throughout the story so that the students do not get confused about two different cartoons serving as the same character. I shuffled through several artists’ work to find more than one picture of the same cartoon. This took some time, but once I found the artist that I liked and that provided at least two pieces of work that portrayed the same character, I had no problems creating my story. This would be a great tool to use in the classroom not only to allow the students exposure to a specific content area, but also for the students to create their own personal imaginative stories using the art that is provided on the site.

Carly and Friends can be viewed at this link: https://storybird.com/books/carly-and-friends/ 

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EDU 305 | First Blog

Richard Byrne, the author and editor of Free Technology for Teachers (www.freetech4teachers.com), is a formal high school social studies teacher who realized the power of technology in education and began educating others about how to use it effectively in the classroom. According to his “About the Author” blog page, Byrne is a five time winner of the Edublogs Award for Best Resource Sharing Blog. He has been recognized by a number of magazines and websites for educating others about technology use. In addition to writing the Free Technology for Teachers blog, Byrne maintains iPadApps4School.com, Android4Schools.com, and PracticalEdTech.com. He has also maintained a monthly column in the School Library Journal and has contributed to both What School Leaders Need to Know About Digital Technologies and Social Media and to Teacher Librarian.

Moments after clicking Byrne’s blog link (http://www.freetech4teachers.com/) and opening the site, I was immersed into his latest post about a free communication web service for teachers.  I continued to explore and found that each week he shares a different app, website, or gadget that can be used and incorporated in the classroom. For example, the free communication web service that I explored was this week’s post. The service is called SchoolCircle, and is designed to help elementary school teachers organize communication to the students’ parents.  Byrne stated that you can use SchoolCircle to send messages, organize tasks for parent volunteers, and post updates about what is happening inside the classroom. He also pointed out that with SchoolCircle the parents don’t have to sign in everyday to check up on the site because the teacher has the ability to send daily updates to the parents’ email addresses. He linked the SchoolCircle website to the blog post so that teachers can easily download and begin using the communication tool. I opened the link and explored the SchoolCircle website for several minutes and ended up loving it. I have bookmarked the site and plan to use it at some point in my future as a teacher. It seems very user-friendly and can be understood by the least tech-savvy parent I may have. The second page I viewed on his blog was the “Alternatives to YouTube” page. On this page I learned about a number of teacher-friendly and teacher-appropriate sites that play songs and videos, very similarly to YouTube. However the difference between these sites and YouTube is that the videos are shared from other teachers around the world, and are typically focused on a specific subject or content area. The sites are narrowed down so that when a teacher is searching for a certain video on weather, for example, they do not have to filter all the silly weather videos that are non-educational found on YouTube. The sites contain only videos that can be used in the classroom and that are appropriate for students. The third page I explored was the “Creating Blogs and Websites” page. This page listed at least 10 tutorial videos on how to create effective and organized teacher blogs and websites using a number of different free blog/website creation tools. I viewed a few of the tutorial videos and read about the site creators he shared. In the short descriptions beside each website link, he highlights the pros and cons about each site (in his opinion of course). I found that to be very helpful, and know that as a teacher I will love advice from a technology expert such as what he wrote on this particular page.

I studied both the Wordles site and Tagxedo. Initially I struggled with Wordles because my Java was not updated on my computer, but with a friends help I was able to work out the kinks and successfully make a Wordle. I then opened Tagxedo and found myself liking it a lot. I found the word cloud creator to be very user friendly and creator-specific – meaning the person who is creating it can make it more personal and specific to what they are making it on or about. Wordles was user friendly as well, but I liked how I had more choices about the shape in which the words made with Tagxedo. I began pondering ways in which you could use Tagxedo (or Wordles) in the classroom and realized that the ways are endless! A teacher could use one to summarize a unit or presentation by highlighting the most important points of the lesson, or as a way for the students to “get to know the teacher” by highlighting different characteristics and aspects of who they are and possibly having the students complete one at the beginning of the year to share to the class. A teacher could also use them to display the day’s learning objectives and outcomes or the main ideas/points they will learn that day; the teacher could have it displayed on the Interactive White Board when students come into class and could ask them write in their journals about what they anticipate to learn based on what is listed in the Wordle/Tagxedo. They could also be created as gifts for students or parents to display the characteristics each student brought and contributed to the class community. As stated early, the possibilities are endless!

Before beginning this course, I already had experience creating a cover letter using Letter Wizard as well as creating a brochure using Publisher. Although I already knew how to create both assignments, I found the assignments to be useful because I had never used them in the same way in which we were assigned. I was also more confident when completing those assignments because I knew how to use the programs and how to use special features the programs offer.  I have also experienced blogging in the past; I used a personal blog as a way to communicate my experiences while abroad to friends and family at home and a more professional blog in an EDU course here at Meredith. Once again, although I had previously blogged I did not find this assignment to be a waste of time. It gave me even more opportunity to become comfortable writing and posting blogs, for reasons other than traveling and literacy purposes.  Creating a website was by far the most challenging assignment I have experienced thus far in this course. I was intimidated when I began because the task of “creating a website” simply because it seems very intense and time-consuming. I had pre-existing fears of creating links and html addresses (which thankfully we did not have to do!). However, once I sat down and began creating the website I found it to be much easier than expected. The tutorials were a great help and were used very often by me, and Google sites makes it extremely easy for an average tech-savvy person to create a website. I plan to use this knowledge and experience with website creations in my future classroom for parents to view what we are doing in class. As a student, I have had teachers create websites and loved referring back to them after school to show my parents pictures of what we worked on that day in class, to show my parents reminders of school and class events that were coming up, and even to check on what assignments were due the following day. I plan to incorporate the use of a website in my future classroom.

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Ouch!

I recently completed the process of my published book, Ouch! I began this process during an EDU 403 class when we were given the opportunity to experience a writing workshop. We were instructed to first think of a person who matters to us and list clear moments we remember with that person, and once we decided on a person we wanted to focus on, we were assigned to sketch a picture of a memory we have with them. Before coming to class on that particular day I had spoken to my Aunt Angie on the phone, so she was the first person to pop in my head. I began reminiscing and thinking of memories we have together, and I immediately thought about the time I slammed her fingers in the car door. I sketched a picture of this to capture the moment of when it happened; while sketching the picture I was reminded of small details from the event that I wouldn’t have remembered if it weren’t for the sketch. After I finished the sketch, I began writing a short story describing the event. I have a secret love for story-telling (as well as hearing others stories), so this task was not difficult for me once I got started.

This experience of publishing a book was much different to my previous experiences with writing for several reasons. I enjoy writing, but in school I always struggled with the “free response” writing prompts; there are so many thoughts going through my mind at one time that I have a hard to narrowing my thoughts into one topic to write about. Therefore, I loved the writing workshop experience because it provided me with boundaries and guidance for my thoughts, while still allowing me to freely write. This experience was different than my previous writing experiences because I have never actually done anything with my writing once I have completed the task or assignment. The majority of my writing is completed for the purpose of school assignments, and once I turn it in I don’t typically do anything with it. However, for this assignment I was able to take my writing and actually make something of it. I really enjoyed breaking the story down into pages that sounded appropriate for a children’s book, drawing small illustrations, creating a front and back cover, and titling my writing piece.

As mentioned earlier, I found the prompt to be fairly easy. I seem to have a fond memory of my childhood, and therefore re-telling stories from my childhood is something I enjoy. I believe many students will relate to this feeling; a prompt that is not too broad but not too narrow that allows them to draw from their own lives and experiences and write about them is something many students will find easy and enjoyable. On the other hand, the area that I found to be most difficult in the publishing process was the creativity that is needed for an attractive book. For a future teacher I am, unfortunately, very uncreative. I cannot draw very well, and I don’t have a keen eye for what looks well together. I really wanted my book to look like a children’s book, but it is very obviously homemade; I suppose I can claim it as authentically my own!

photo - Copy

Although my published book is not the most attractive book in the bunch, nor is it the funniest/cutest children’s book, I am very proud of Ouch!  It is a book that I can proudly say is my writing, as well as my illustrations. I will absolutely place this book in my future classroom’s reading center and will use it as a model for when my students create their own published books.

I really enjoyed this process, not only as a student but as a future teacher. I plan on using this process to encourage writing and art integrations for illustrations in my future classroom. Publishing a book gives the writer something to be proud of, no matter what level of writing. This is also a great inspiration for students who are artistically inclined; it gives them to opportunity to share their work with their classmates. During my experience creating my book, I thought of several ways I could incorporate this project into a future classroom. It would be a really fun project to complete as a whole class; students could work together to create a book that we could publish and hand out at the end of the year to display their hard work to others in the community.

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Reading Conversation

During my time in my 5th grade placement classroom, I had the opportunity to meet individually with a student to discuss what she is currently reading. Before meeting with this student I had planned several questions to ask including what she enjoys to read most and what she enjoys to read the least, and why. However once I asked the opening question, “So what book were you reading before I asked you to talk?”, the conversation led itself! I was able to find out a lot of information about this particular student’s experience with reading, her attitude toward reading, and more. I learned that she had recently finished reading the book Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper, which (as you can assume) made me extremely excited! We were able to discuss the book, our favorite characters as well as our least favorites, and how we felt about certain situations the main character was put in. Although this student is a 5th grader, I felt that our conversation was very similar to many book conversations I have had in this course with my college peers. It was obvious that she received the same message from the book, which proved to me that her comprehension level is well up to par for a 5th grader. After a few minutes of discussing the book, she showed me the book she is currently reading and briefly explained the plot of it.

It seemed as if she finds enjoyment in reading, but when I asked her that very question she responded by shaking her head no. She explained that she doesn’t get enough time to read the types of books she enjoys most because in class they are assigned different workbooks and other texts to read. This isn’t necessarily a flaw of the teacher’s; it isn’t entirely possible to cover all literacy curriculum using fiction text or fairy tale text. She continued by explaining that the only time she is allowed time to read books of her choice is when she finishes the weeks center work, which typically doesn’t happen until Friday afternoons. Surprisingly enough, I remember being in a very similar situation when I reached 5th grade. At this age, students are expected to read more informational text and for the purpose of learning and completing various assignments using the text. Before this age, students simply practice reading by reading various books they choose that are appropriate for his/her reading level. I could sense this frustration of not being able to read books of her choice when conversing with her. However, she informed me that she spends time reading for pure enjoyment outside of school, which I was happy to hear!

I found this conversation to be very comfortable. The student I met with had a lot to say in response to my questions, so it felt much more like a conversation between two fellow readers rather than an interview between a student teacher and student. There was never a point in the conversation when I felt uncomfortable or unsure of what to say. This student was chosen to speak with me because she is considered one of the typically achieving students in the class; this impressed me, considering how knowledgeable and involved in reading she is! The next step I would take with this student would be to focus on comprehension of a more difficult and more informational and formal text. She seems to have no problems comprehending texts of her choice, but comprehension of a more informational text requires a different type of thinking that I was unable to assess during this conversation.

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