Learning Log – Final Reflection

Wow, I can’t believe this course is over!  I feel as though I have learned so much over the past eight weeks.  Beginning this course, I had very few ideas of how to incorporate technology into my lessons and my classroom.  I also did not understand the impact technology can have on my own personal growth as an educator.  Throughout this course I have learned the purpose of using technology while not losing the main focus of teaching – providing our students with the knowledge and skills they will need to succeed in the real world.  It can be easy to focus so much on test scores, that we forget to allow our students to explore, create, and inquire.  On the flip side, sometimes as I was completing assignments and readings in this course, I got so caught up in the technology that I had to stop and remind myself that using technology is not an easy-fix that will ensure that my students will be engaged.  How I use the technology and structure the learning process will determine if my students are engaged and truly learning.

Also, because technology is such an important part of every day life, it is imperative that we prepare our students for life in a digital society.  This fact was reiterated to me over and over as I read articles and completed assignments.  Once students graduate from high school, they will need to know how to research topics, analyze information, evaluate sources, and create quality products.  It is our duty to prepare our students for those tasks.  I believe this course has taught me many different ways and tools to guide students towards achieving that goal.

Another big thing I learned throughout this course was how to ethically use information gathered from the internet.  I feel much more confident using pictures, music, videos, or text in a legal and appropriate manner.  I also like that I can apply a Creative Commons license to what I have created and share it with other educators.  On a side note, I have become a fan of Flickr.com‘s Creative Commons search; knowing exactly how I can or cannot use a pictures is very reassuring.

Overall, I believe this course has given me a great foundation on why and how to use technology in the classroom.  I have learned techniques and tools that will help me continue to grow as a professional and as a 21st century educator.  By being taught how to build a PLN and collaborate with other teachers, I have been given the skills I need to continue my learning.  If I want my students to be life-long learners, I must first model that.  And I am now even more inspired and prepared to do that than before.

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Learning Log – Discussion Forum

Throughout this course, I’ve really learned a lot through the discussion forum.  It’s really interesting to hear the perspectives of people who are currently teachers, those who have not yet had their own classroom, teachers from different content areas, and people from different age groups.  Several times I was forced to see an issue from an angle I hadn’t thought of.  Also, those who have been teachers for a while have practical experience, while those who have yet to teach full-time seem a little more idealistic.  Things can be learned from both groups of people.  It is through the collection of ideas and learning from others that we can really teach to the fullest potential.  The discussion forum really reinforced to me the importance of collaboration among educators.  Each person has his or her own set of ideas and experiences to bring to the table.  We can all learn from one another and apply different ideas and suggestions to our own teaching.  Seeing the impact the discussion forum has had on my understanding, thoughts, and ideas, I am even more motivated to develop and maintain a PLN as an educator.


Learning Log – Inquiry-based Learning/Research project

I’m coming to the end of completing my Inquiry-based Learning/Research project.  This was the first time I have ever created a wiki, so it was a completely new experience for me.  Going into the project I was very apprehensive (as with most of the projects for this course =p).  However, it was very helpful for me to explore other educational wikis to gain an idea of how to set one up and use it effectively.  I can see how the other tools and techniques we have learned about throughout this course all come together and helped me create this unit plan and wiki.  For example, I never would have thought about trying to set up a Skype call with a museum curator to allow my students to see exhibits and learn more about a subject without actually having to leave the classroom.  And learning about Flickr and Creative Commons allowed me to add images and create digital stories without engaging in copyright infringement. I now see how the many things we have learned throughout this course have prepared me to complete this last assignment.

Also, for this final project I created a sample digital story for the unit.  I was surprised how much easier it was to create this digital story (my second) compared to the first one.  Knowing what I was doing, being familiar with the process and software, and knowing what I wanted the end product to look like helped make the process a lot easier and faster.  This encouraged me a lot because initially I thought it would take a very long time to create another digital story based off of how time consuming it was to start and finish my first one.  Now I see that as I become more comfortable and familiar with the process, I will be able to do it better and faster.  This will also transfer into the other tools we learned about in this course.  The more I become familiar with a tool and the more I use it, the easier it will become to incorporate into my classroom and lessons.

The AASL standard 1 really jumps out at me in relation to this final project: “Candidates are effective teachers who demonstrate knowledge of learners and learning and who model and promote collaborative planning, instruction in multiple literacies, and inquiry-based learning, enabling members of the learning community to become effective users and creators of ideas and information. Candidates design and implement instruction that engages students’ interests and develops their ability to inquire, think critically, gain and share knowledge.”  As I developed my lesson plans and wiki, I tried to think of ways to engage the students’ interests and spark their imagination.  I also endeavored to encourage the students to inquire about and research information and theories to help develop their critical thinking and problem solving skills.  As I prepared the unit plan, I wanted to include some aspects of UDL by providing support for lower learners, allowing students to work together (higher level learners helping lower level learners), and offer assignments with different levels of difficulty.  Finally, the culminating project of my unit plan would help the students learn from different resources, use technology to research and create, and give the students an opportunity to learn how to use and share information effectively and ethically.  My goal was to help the students take an interest in what they were learning, gain experience collecting information from various sources and tools, learn how to ethically use information found on the internet, and use creativity and imagination when creating a digital product.


Learning Log – Wikis

British Romanticism wiki

This wiki supports student learning and engagement.  It was created in place of a slide show and as a way to really involve students in learning, researching, and sharing.  By providing important information related to the unit, listing student assignments and due dates, and describing the rationale for the wiki, students can use this site to support their learning in many ways.  First, they will have access to the information they need, whenever they need it.  They also can keep track of the information and assignments.  The wiki also provides one accessible place for all the students to gather information and collaborate.  And finally, the students can engage in discussion about the information and assignments.

English/Literature wiki

I thought this wiki was a bit more complicated.  There are a lot of pages and it is set up different than the other wikis I have visited.  Honestly, I was overwhelmed by the amount of information contained on this site.  However, it does have pertinent information and homework assignments for the students.  It’s a good resource for the students because there is so much information and it can all be easily accessed.  The wiki contains video clips, tips on how to complete assignments, links to various resources, and slide shows.

Honors British Literature wiki

This wiki is exceptionally well-developed and designed.  It contains a description of the course, what is on the wiki and how it can be used, assignments and due dates, expected outcomes, and resources and information for the six texts explored throughout the unit.  By providing important information and giving the students a place to engage in discussion, ask questions, and collaborate with fellow students, this wiki will be very helpful in supporting student learning.

Gaming in the English Classroom wiki

This wiki provides resources and ideas for teachers who want to incorporate video games and virtual worlds into their lessons and classrooms.  This is a great site for collaboration among teachers.  There are justifications for using gaming in the classroom, links to tools and sites for gaming/virtual worlds, videos clips that support gaming, descriptions of virtual worlds and gaming (including links, grade level, and skills developed), and lessons plans that include the use of those tools.  This wiki supports teachers in using, how to use, and why to use gaming and virtual worlds for teaching.

 

All these wikis support either students learning or teacher collaboration.  By being able to share information, list resources and links, and provide a place for discussion and questions, these wikis help engage students and increase teacher collaboration.  Also, because wikis can be accessed from any Internet-connected computer, the sites make information available to anyone at any time.  This will help students who like to work on their own time, at their own pace.  Also, if the students forget part of their assignment, they can easily access the guidelines for the project by visiting the wiki.  While I think it would be time consuming to set up a wiki, once a teacher has experience with it, I would imagine the process would gradually become faster and easier.


Learning Log – Social Media Voicethread

Creating this voicethread was a very new experience for me.  I had never heard of or seen it before this module.  Initially, I was very intimidated at the prospect of creating one.  However, once I got going and organized my thoughts, I found that it fell into place a lot easier than I thought.  This tool is very cool in that I can narrate my own slideshow.  Also, I find it interesting that I can add video, draw on the picture or video, and zoom in on the picture while watching a voicethread.  This tool seems like it could be used very effectively by educators and other professionals.  The first thing that comes to mind is using it for professional development.  Being able to give training or support via a voicethread seems useful.  Also, the capability of viewers to leave comments (either by text, audio, or video) allows a lot of collaboration and feedback. I wonder if I could create a voicethread and provide it as a lesson for a sub to show to my class if I was planning to miss a day at school…

The most difficult part of this assignment was just getting started and figuring out what I needed to do.  I also found it somewhat challenging to record myself speaking, only because if I had a long bit of information, I always seemed to mis-speak the last word and have to rerecord the whole thing all over again.  But that could be solved by recording in shorter clips.  Once I completed my voicethread, I was relieved and excited.  Before this class, I had never created anything like I have over the past six weeks – digital stories, screencasts, and voicethreads.  It gives me a sense of pride and accomplishment knowing that I can create something using those tools.

I believe AASL Standard 3.3 – Information Technology, especially applies to my journey through creating this voicethread. The indicator states that “Candidates model and facilitate the effective use of current and emerging digital tools to locate, analyze, evaluate, and use information resources to support research, learning, creating, and communicating in a digital society.”  Through this assignment I have learned to locate information I needed using tools such as Diigo and then used that information to create a product that could be used to share information with other educators.  This tool is very effective in opening the door to communication between many people on a certain topic, as each person can comment on a slide and hear what other people have to say about it.  Voicethreads support learning and communication, and by creating one myself, I now have first-hand knowledge of how that works.

 

 


Social and Collaborative Media

Social Networking and Collaborative Media voicethread

I created this voice thread to share some of the benefits of using social networking tools and collaborative media to aid the learning of students and to encourage collaboration and growth among professionals.  These tools can be used by students under the supervision and instruction of a teacher, or they can be used by professionals to share ideas and learn from others.  I specifically focused on three tools – Google Docs, Google Forms, and blogs.  Included in this voice thread are ways to use these tools with students or adults and the benefits of using them.


Learning Log – “Goodreads”

This is a bookshelf I created for a unit on the Holocaust.  This bookshelf could be used as a quick resource for me as I’m planning and preparing for a unit on that time in history.  Included are books all dedicated to the subject, but they are on different reading levels and are written using different styles.  Therefore, I can easily decide which books would be best for a particular class.  For example, if I have a class with slower or lower level students, I could just choose the books from this list that are a lower reading level.  Or vice versa.  Another way to use this bookshelf is to make it available to my students as a list of acceptable books for them to read, and then they could choose their own from that list.  That gives the students a choice and puts them in control of their learning.
I could use Goodreads in the same way for other units I am teaching.  For example, if I teach a unit on Greek mythology, I could collect all the books I believe could be helpful when studying that subject and then have a list ready for whenever I need to find or assign a book for the class.  Or, again, allow the students to choose from a list (or bookshelf) I created.  Goodreads is a great way to organize the books I like, read reviews from other educators or readers, and easily access that information.

Learning Log – iGoogle

This was my first time learning about iGoogle.  I didn’t even know it existed until today.  I think it could be a great resource because it keeps all my information in one place where I can easily check and access it all.  Previously, I got overwhelmed thinking about trying to check in on Twitter, GoogleReader, GoogleDocs, my email, and any other tools I might use as a teacher.  But iGoogle keeps it all in one place!  Now I don’t have to try to make a mental checklist of all the places I need to go to check for updates and information.  In that way, I think iGoogle could be a great tool for me as a teacher.  It will help me stay organized and on top of everything.

Starting into this assignment, I was a little worried that it would be just another thing to remember to check.  Or that I’ll set it up and simply forget about it.  But as I started using it more and learning my way around, I started to get more excited at how helpful it could be to me, both in my own learning experience and as a teacher.  It’s great how customizable the homepage is.  I could add and arrange the gadgets in any way I wanted.  I added gadgets for my email, GoogleReader, GoogleDocs, the weather, a to do list, Twitter, the news, a dictionary, “useless knowledge”, and even a little hamster that runs around and plays in his little box (I couldn’t help adding that one =p).  Now I feel as though I will continue to use iGoogle because of how helpful it will be in keeping me up-to-date on what’s going on in all my different tools.


Learning Log – Web 2.0 tools

As I’ve researched and reviewed various digital tools that can be used in the classroom, I’ve realize how engaging they can be – not only for the students, but also for the teacher.  I started to get excited thinking about ways that I could use various tools in my classroom, and often the excitement of the teacher will impact the students’ level of excitement and interest.  However, one word of caution I’ve heard from different teachers is to not allow technology to get in the way of teaching.  If the technology does not enhance the lesson or if it detracts from the learning experience, it is best not to use that particular tool.  I spoke with my mentor teacher about this and she was showing me some of the different tools she has in her classroom.  The school in which she teaches is brand new and therefore has all the latest technology.  While most of the technology she was excited about, she stated that the Promethean board is more of a hindrance than a help to her lessons.  She finds the board cumbersome and difficult to use.  My mentor said that she does not use it because when she did, it ended up just getting in the way of learning.  However, many of the other technological tools in her classroom she has found to be very helpful.  She also showed me some resources online for where to find instructional videos or digital stories and audio.  Because of this course, I was even more interested to find out what tools teachers actually use in their classroom.  I’m looking forward to actually observing how teachers use these tools in “live” classes after having studying them in this course.

The one other big idea that stood out to me from reviewing web 2.0 tools, is that while some websites or digital tools are not necessarily designed for educational purposes, they can still be used for such.  I realized that it is important for me to think outside of the box and be creative with how to use online resources and how to “spice up” my lessons.  So many of the websites I checked out could be used in so many different ways.  Variety in how information is presented is often key to keeping the students interested in engaged.  Through this assignment I have learned about many different types of tools to use that will enhance my lessons and engage my students.  As long as I keep using my creativity and do not become stagnant in my use and understanding of technology, I believe that I could make a real difference in the level of excitement and interest my students have in learning.


Learning Log – Flickr Slide Shows

Creative Writing Flickr Slide Show

 

I created this set as a tool to stir my students’ creativity and imagination.  My idea is to show this Flickr set to my students and have them respond to the images by writing several sentences about each slide, all of which would build upon each other to produce a short story.  Each picture is non-specific and can be open to interpretation.  By choosing these pictures, I thought it would allow the children to use more of their imaginations to produce their own story.  Before beginning the writing process, the students would choose who the story was geared towards (young children, middle school aged students, high schoolers, or adults), and then write with that purpose and audience in mind.  This would be fulfilling my content area standard 4.0.1. by having them use pre-writing skills and then writing with a purpose and audience in mind.

Also, I could use this slide show to prompt the students to discuss what kind of feelings the pictures invoke in the students.  We could then use that as a segue into how pictures add meaning to text and how we can use pictures to get our imaginations working.  The pictures in the slide show could also be used to help the students learn how to write using vivid language.  I could show each slide and have the children write as many descriptive words they can think of.  Then we could compare our words as a class and talk about the words that are most effective and vivid.  This would, again, require the students to demonstrate writing skills.  Also, the students will learn how to use their words effectively and how to use pictures to enhance their message.

All these activities are geared towards creative writing.  This can be used in many different grade levels, but the ones that first come to mind are the middle school grades – sixth, seventh, and eighth.  My desire is that the students would learn how to use their creativity and become familiar and comfortable writing for different audiences and purposes.