Tuesday, February 24, 2009
It's SNOWY
I was very pleased overall with the professional development plans that the students completed. For the most part, their goals were very specific and attainable. Many mentioned that they would like to keep track of their progress towards their goals with a dedicated page in their e-portfolios. I thought this was a great idea and decided to make this the assignment for the professional development plan revision. I explained to the students what I thought should go on this page - their original goals, the progress they've made thus far, links to evidence (screenshots, photographs, web links, etc.) of their progress, and plans for the future. The students' reactions to this assignment was positive, expressing that they felt it would be more useful to them than simply revising their original plans.

The students seemed to appreciate the segment during last week's lab on making our W200 pedagogy transparent, that is, sharing tools and tips as one teacher to another. The tool I shared was Poll Everywhere. This week, I shared three other tools that I had found helpful in my professional teaching tasks - Google Calendar, Twitter, and Umbrella Today. I demonstrated how they can use their cell phones to send and receive "tweets" and explained how Twitter is being used to share insights during conferences. I also shared how I have been using Google Calendar to manage my schedule and how I have set up to receive reminders on my cell phone so that I won't miss meetings or appointments. I then showed the students who were interested how to set up the option to receive SMS (cell phone text) reminders. I introduced Umbrella Today as a tool that simply sends SMS reminders when the forecast calls for rain. This can be helpful to a busy teacher who has a lot on the mind when heading out the door to school each morning.

I then modeled how they might make technology integration decisions using the SNOWY decision making process. SNOWY stands for Standard, Needs, Options, What, and Why. After modeling this process, I asked the students to join with one or two classmates and create a Google Doc that outlines the SNOWY process as applied to an 8th grade science case. Having the students in groups was very beneficial in especially the Options step, as they bounced ideas off one another for possible activities (or Options) that they could use in this case. The groups then wrote learning objectives that incorporated the option they chose. At the close of class, each group presented their Google Doc, some of the Options that they found, and their learning objective. I was able to provide specific feedback on their proposals to each group (and the whole class). I hope that this workout will lead to better proposals in the coming weeks.

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posted by SG @ 12:51 PM   0 comments
Monday, February 16, 2009
The Classroom Newsletter
Classroom newsletters provide a way for teachers to communicate classroom and school happenings with students and their families. This week, we discussed newsletters and other ways teachers can communicate with families and the kinds of information these communications might contain. Here's the list we came up with. With the focus on using technology tools to be more productive in a teacher's professional life, we experimented with Google Docs (and spreadsheets, forms, and presentations) to create sample classroom newsletters. Some of the students used the templates available on Google Docs, others started their newsletters in Word then uploaded them to Google Docs, and others started their newsletters from scratch. We explored the collaborative features of this resource as well as the limitations in formatting and layout.

In an effort to make the W200 pedagogy more transparent, I demonstrated how to create online polls using Poll Everywhere and led the students through the process of creating free accounts. We used the sample poll to find out how many in class knew how to bookmark websites in their Delicious accounts and found that there were just a few in each section that weren't sure how to do this. (I directed these few to tutorials on the Delicious website.)

One student in each section volunteered to show his/her digital story about why they chose the teaching profession. The majority of the students selected this topic for their stories; however, a few did do stories on what makes a teacher great and how to... . Overall, the stories were really interesting to watch, and they helped me to get to know the students better.

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posted by SG @ 2:35 PM   0 comments
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Quite a Development
So, today's focus is professional development. Because last week's class was cancelled due to snow, I sensed some confusion concerning course activities among the students. I had looked into the chatroom on Oncourse a few times and noticed some of my students' comments. I e-mailed these students directly, but I wanted to clear up the questions with the entire class before moving forward into today's lesson.

I was surprised that many had forgotten about their blogs on Blogger that they created the first day of class or otherwise missed the connection between these blogs and the make-up assignment from last week, which was to write a post about integrating technology into a standards-based lesson in the content area of interest. (I did not specify in my announcement to the students that the blog posts would go on the Blogger.com blogs. I assumed they would know this, as it didn't cross my mind that they would go anywhere else!) One student creatively used his Delicious account to tag the lesson plan and then wrote his comments in the description area of the bookmark. I had planned to begin class with a follow-up activity stemming from these posts; but because so many had trouble, I decided to postpone the activity until a future session. Instead, I demonstrated how to post to their blogs and offered them a second chance to complete the assignment, because I felt too important a lesson to skip.

I also demonstrated how to get to the correct lecture worksheet for each week and where to find my and their classmates' e-mail addresses in the Roster area of Oncourse. I encouraged the students to visit the TTL or e-mail me with future questions and avoid getting sucked into the negativity that has seemed to surface in the course chatroom. I compared the chatroom to the teachers' lounge, saying that it can be a great place to vent but can also drag your perspective down as you listen to others' complaints.

I then introduced the professional development plan assignment, describing each section of the plan and how they were to be graded using the rubric. We then moved on to the digital storytelling workout. I explained why learning how to create digital stories is important for them as future teachers (it is a great strategy for involving our digital native students in interacting with the content that they are studying) and offered a few suggestions for how it might be used in the content areas. We reviewed the web resource from University of Houston that outlines the components of a digital story and the kinds of tools that could be used. I then demonstrated from start to finish how to create a digital story in Windows Movie Maker. I explained the difference between their Windows Movie Maker file (.MSWMM) and their published digital story (.wmv). I instructed them to submit their published digital stories by uploading them to the Artifacts page of their e-portfolios. Knowing that this is a multi-step process, I created a tutorial and posted it this week's Resources in Oncourse. I asked the students to attempt to follow the tutorial, and then ask for help if they got stuck on one of the steps. Providing the tutorial at least initially reduced the number of times I had to walk the students through the process.

I provided them the option during the second half of class to choose what they wanted to work on. Some chose to work on their professional development plans and do their digital stories in the quiet of their own rooms, where they wouldn't feel awkward recording in front of others. Some decided to go ahead and do their digital stories in class or in the TTL. Many fixed their blog posts from last week. And I circulated and answered questions as needed.

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posted by SG @ 3:32 PM   0 comments
Monday, January 26, 2009
Digital Natives
With this week's focus on understanding the concept of digital natives and digital immigrants, we spent some time discussing what these terms mean, where we might place ourselves in (or between) these categories, and the kinds of technologies that can be used to reach our digital native students. This is an interesting place to be talking about this topic, as some of my students are digital natives and some are more toward the immigrant end of the spectrum. The whole idea of digital natives lent to a pretty good discussion, and I was pleased with some of the ideas that the students offered in how to tap into a digital native's world.

After going over a few announcements and demonstrating how to troubleshoot the in-between lecture podcasts, I had the students divide into groups of 3-4 and provided them a scaffold with which they were to come up with several examples of typical classroom tasks and ideas for using technology to approach such tasks in a more digital native way. The groups then created a digital graphic to demonstrate visually one of their examples. Some of the groups used PowerPoint and then converted the slides to JPEG files. Others used Microsoft Paint. Some used Word or Excel and took screenshots of their images and created pictures files by pasting the screenshots in Adobe Photoshop and then exporting. I circulated and helped each group as needed. If I do this activity again, I'd like to provide a job aid for how to save PowerPoint slides as picture files and how to take screenshots, as I went through the steps with many of the groups over and over again. Representatives from each group then presented their graphical representations to the class.

The remainder of class was spent working on the e-portfolios. I guided the students in how to arrange their pages in the navigation area, upload files, and create links on their pages. I am pleased that both sections are making a good deal of progress in putting together their portfolios. Hopefully, this will make the project easier on the students towards the end of the semester.

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posted by SG @ 2:40 PM   0 comments
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Shift
I used M&Ms to facilitate introductions, which involves giving each student a fun size package of M&Ms, asking everyone to choose one of the M&Ms, and then having them share something about themselves that corresponds to the M&M color. With Valentine's Day nearing, I had gotten the Valentine's edition of the M&Ms, so the colors and corresponding statements went something like this -

Pink – If I could go anywhere in the world, I would go to ______ because…
Red – One of my greatest accomplishments is…
Magenta – The person who has most influenced my life is…
White – One of my goals in life is to…

There were many students who wanted to travel to Australia or New Zealand, some who chose parents or teachers as the most influential in their lives, and several who have the goal of being able to use their skills to help others in third world countries. It was a great way to start to get to know each other. With 40-50 students in two sections, it will take me a while to learn all of the students' names.

After introductions, we reviewed the syllabus, some Oncourse basics, and other important course-related info, such as how to download the podcasts and readings. I then helped them create Gmail and Delicious accounts and create a blog in Blogger and a new Google Site. This took most of the rest of the class period for the first section; the second section created the accounts very quickly. Since the second section finished so quickly, I demonstrated how to use Google Sites, and the students created their e-portfolio skeletons. At the end of class for both sections, we toured the Teaching with Technology Lab (TTL).

I guess I'll learn how to manage teaching two sections as the semester progresses. I thought it was interesting that the second section finished so quickly. I will probably keep using the e-portfolio as something that students can work on if they finish the lab activities early.

One thing that I'd like to create for next lab is a list of major assignments and due dates. With teaching two sections this semester, I communicated to the students that I will not be able to track down late assignments. So, I want to make sure that they know what assignments they are responsible for completing and the dates they are due. I still have not decided how I will manage assignments. With the changes in how the Oncourse site is set up this semester, I'm leaning away from using the Assignments area, as the drawbacks seem to outweigh the positives. I am considering using their e-portfolios as a way to receive submissions. I plan to make a decision before lab next week.

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posted by SG @ 3:08 PM   0 comments
Friday, December 12, 2008
The End
I began class by going over the agenda for this final lab session. The students then completed the final course online evaluations.

I decided to facilitate peer reviews of the e-Portfolios for the main lab activity this week. Many students had asked me what to put on their Portfolio Discussion pages, and so doing a peer review provided them with some content for those pages. I showed them how to add peers as collaborators on their sites. This allowed the peers to post their remarks as comments on the bottom of the Portfolio Discussion pages. Knowing that the collaborator role also allows editing capabilities, I cautioned the class to honor their peers by not making any changes except to add comments. I provided each of the students with two copies of a peer evaluation rubric. I thought that giving them paper copies of the rubric would be easier for the students to write remarks while viewing the e-Portfolios on screen and would allow them to hand their completed rubrics to the e-Portfolio authors. I also wanted the comments posted on the Portfolio Discussion pages to be positive, so the paper rubric was a means for the students to communicate critical feedback.

After about 15 minutes of instruction on how to add collaborators and review the portfolios, the students had 45 minutes to complete their reviews. I advised them to spend about 20 minutes on each portfolio and to make revisions to their own portfolios if they finished early. This seemed to be adequate time, and I enjoyed observing the interactions between students as they explained their feedback to their peers. The activity also seemed to be quite beneficial as it helped the students make final revisions to their portfolios before they were graded.

I expressed my appreciation to the students for their enthusiasm and participation this semester. I really did have a great group of students, which was such a blessing as I had a tough semester learning to handle all my responsibilities with a small child.

I had Mother Bear's Pizza deliver several large pizzas shortly before the end of class, and we spent the final moments of Lab 28816 discussing the students' future careers while enjoying pizza and cookies in a nearby conference room. I really enjoyed this time, as the students opened up a lot about their thoughts concerning their majors and changing majors and future jobs. They asked me about grad school and types of jobs they could do with an education major. I related some of my undergraduate experiences, how I changed majors several times, and how I finally decided on my chosen career. I encouraged them to gain some authentic experiences in education, such as substitute teaching or working at a childcare facility, to get a better idea of what it feels like to be a teacher. I found these final moments so valuable as I got to know my students better and they were able to talk candidly with me about their thoughts on teaching and technology.

It reminded me of a Mastercard commercial...

3 large pizzas from Mother Bear's - $50
1 dozen Reese's chip cookies - $5
A meaningful time of discussion and reflection - Priceless

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posted by SG @ 11:54 AM   0 comments
Friday, November 21, 2008
Excel-ing in Administration Tools
After distributing this week's lecture worksheets, I handed back the graded Unit 2 exams and asked for questions about the test. Overall, the students did well on this exam and had no questions for me.

So, we moved on to this week's workout - using Microsoft Excel to create an electronic gradebook. I demonstrated how to do a weighted average and create a lookup table to assign letter grades. I ran into a little problem with the lookup table and finally figured out that the scores needed to go in the first column and the associated letter grades in the second column. Also, it was a bit challenging to go through this workout demonstration using the Windows version of Excel 2007, as I had prepared for the lesson using the Mac version of Excel 2008. I found the locations of some of the features to be slightly different in the two versions.

After the workout, I reviewed the e-portfolio rubric with the students and answered questions about the e-portfolio. I had prepared a Google Sites e-portfolio quick tips sheet for two repeated questions that I had received during last week's lab time, and this came in quite handy during the e-portfolio work time today. I noticed many of the students referring to it, which allowed me to circulate and assist in other ways. The students seemed to appreciate having time to work on their artifacts and e-portfolios in class, as they were able to get help when needed.

For next semester, I would like to explain and work with the e-portfolio in the first few weeks and plan for time throughout the semester to revisit and built onto it. I think I will be able to do this now that I am feeling more comfortable with Google Sites and what the final product should look like. For now, I am considering creating a checklist that they can use during next lab to make sure that they have all of the necessary elements on their sites. I think this will help them to identify areas of their e-portfolios that still need work.

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posted by SG @ 12:01 PM   0 comments
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I am attempting to develop practical instructional applications of developing technologies and provide educators with tools to implementing instructional technologies effectively.
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MUVEs, Web 2.0, assistive technologies, digital video

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