Learning Log – Digital Story Assignment

I’m new to the idea of digital storytelling.  I have never previously created a digital story nor heard much about them being used in an instructional setting.  I have created a slideshow a few times using iMovie for personal pictures and for fun, but never for educational purposes.  I also have never collected pictures and music from outside sources, compiled them, and narrated the show/story.  The most difficult part of this assignment, I found, was trying to make sure that I didn’t not break any copyright laws in my use of the pictures and music.  However, once I found out how to search images on Flickr that were licensed under Creative Commons, I found it much easier.  On that note, the standard in which I feel I grew the most is AASL Standard 3.1.  I learned how to locate and use information for instructional purposes in appropriate ways and without copyright infringement.  I am now much more confident in collecting and compiling information from the Internet for educational purposes.

I ended up having fun creating my first digital story.  Although I know that as I have more experience with it, the quality of my work will improve, I feel as though I’ve gotten over the hardest part – creating my first one.  I look forward to producing more digital stories to reach my students in their world and hopefully help them become engaged and interested in the learning process and the material being taught.


Learning Log – Thoughts on the start of Module 2

As I started this module, I was overwhelmed with how much I would be doing using pictures, digital stories, slideshows, etc.  I was very concerned because I often avoid using any other pictures, videos, or music that I have not created personally so as not to engage in copyright infringement.  And after studying copyright laws in our last module, I was even more aware of how easy it is to unknowingly break them and how difficult it can be to stay within the guidelines of the laws.

However, I am becoming more and more aware of how important it is to use digital tools to teach and engage our students.  So, while I was a bit worried, I was excited to learn how to properly use those tools and information on the internet.  After watching the video “A Vision of K-12 Students Today“, I was inspired to incorporate more hands-on learning and digital tools in my classroom.  Times have changed a lot in the past 10 years, therefore, so should our teaching strategies and tools.  I am now very excited to become more knowledgeable about the tools available to teachers these days and how to use them most effectively.  And I believe this module lends itself especially well to helping me achieve that goal.

Digital Story

I created this digital story as an introduction to a unit on Romeo and Juliet.  This could be used in an 8th grade RLA classroom.  I produced this with the purpose of “hooking” the students and exciting their interest in the play.  I hoped that by giving the students a few of the key details of the play, while giving it a mysterious “feel,” the students would be excited to read the play and find answers to questions prompted by this digital story.

Learning Log – Flickr Galleries

Flickr Gallery (Edgar Allen Poe – An Introduction)

This is a gallery I created on Flickr as an introduction to a unit on Edgar Allen Poe in the 8th grade RLA classroom.  I would use this gallery as a way to spark the students’ interest in Poe and give them a little bit of background information on the writer.  The goal for this collection of pictures is to “hook” the students and get them interested in learning more about this author and poet whose life and death have become a mystery. I could either post the hyperlink on the classroom blog or show it in class.

I have never used Flickr before, so this was definitely a learning experience for me.  I found it very convenient that I could see how each picture was protected (using copyright or creative commons) in the right column.  Honestly, I was rather confused as to the purpose of galleries when I began this assignment.  If I’m on track, I think I understand it now.  I will definitely be coming back to Flickr in the future!

Learning Log #4

Ending this first module I have already learned several new things.  The biggest things that stood out to me throughout these first two weeks are blogging and (related to that) maintaining an online presence.  Having reviewed teacher and classroom blogs, I’ve learned what I would and would not do on a blog.  How I would design it, some of the content, what I would include in the blog and posts, etc.  I’ve also learned from reading some of my classmates’ reviews of blogs.  Because of a limit on time, I cannot even come close to reading all the great blogs on the internet, but reading what my classmates wrote about other blogs allows me to learn more than had I only known about the ones I have time to read myself.  On that note, this is another reason to connect with other teachers on the internet.  We all have our own experiences and read different articles and blogs, the internet provides a place for us all to come together and share what we know.  Resulting in a very large collection of thoughts and ideas available to anyone interested in reading them.  There are so many capabilities and opportunities related to blogging and online connections.  I hope to begin to tap into that resource as an educator.

Review of classroom blogs

Mrs. Yollis’ Classroom Blog – Third graders learning and sharing together is the first classroom blog I read.  The purpose of the blog appears to be connecting the teacher with her students outside of the classroom and providing support for lessons or activities the students are doing in class. One thing I noticed about this blog is that most of the posts end with questions for the students.  I think that is a great idea.  It gets the students thinking and mentally involved in the post.  Instead of the students having to think up a comment for the post, they can easily answer one of the questions.  Also, the posts include lots of pictures and different color and size text.  I believe this helps grab and maintain the students attention (especially as the bloggers are younger).

One thing I didn’t like about this blog is that there are so many widgets on the right side of the blog.  I found it distracting and a little confusing.  I wonder if the younger students also find all the flashing text and pictures a distraction from the main posts.  I did like that there is an introduction for Mrs. Yollis and also an introduction for the entire class which, I believe, helps give the students a sense of ownership.

One post that caught my attention was “Family Blogging Month Winner ~ Adia Teaches Knitting“.  This post recognized one of the students as the winner of Family Blogging Month and allowed her to post on the blog.  The student used that as an opportunity to teach (via instructions and pictures) knitting.  What a great way to involve the students in technology!  Not only did the student (probably) have a sense of pride in being able to post on the blog and be able to “be the teacher,” she also learned how to use some form of technology and learned to use pictures as a teaching aid.

I believe this blog is very effective in connecting with the students because it is interesting and fun.  Allowing the students to post and comment will help keep them involved in the blog.  Also, using pictures and classroom experiences in the posts helps the students maintain a connection with the blog.  If Mrs. Yollis often uses “free posts” (i.e. the students can make their own post), this will also motivate the students to have an active interest in the blog.  Overall, I enjoyed reading and looking around this blog.

The second blog I analyzed is a high school blog called The Mac Lab.  The design is much different in that it appears more contemporary and “cool.”  This site appears to be a place for the teacher to post assignments and give instruction on how to complete them.  Also, the author provides links for things the students need to read or watch as part of the assignment.  Announcements, reminders, and tips are also written about in the posts.

Honestly, there were so many links and different things to read on the site, it would have taken hours to explore all that was available as part of this blog.  One thing I found interesting was that a there is a gallery section in the blog.  This blog appears to be for students who are interested in becoming media artists, so I thought the idea of showing their work in the gallery section was great.  It will give the students a sense of pride and ownership in their work and the blog.

This blog not only provides a place outside of the classroom for the students and the teacher to connect, it is also a medium to share assignment information and announcements.  Thus, I believe this blog has a lot of educational value for the students.  This way, they can access their assignments and needed information whenever they need to.  Also, the students can easily communicate with the teacher and ask questions.  Because the class appears to be about media, it makes perfect sense to incorporate a blog and the internet into the class.  I think this blog achieves its purpose and is a great resource for the students.

The final blog I looked at is a middle school blog titled Billings Beta – technology with intention.  I found this blog very interesting.  There are sections for each grade (6th, 7th, and 8th) and also places to discuss and show-case projects.  This site seems very involved and high-tech.  It is very clean and easy to navigate despite all the different sections and links.

This blog posts about what the students are doing and learning.  The posts include pictures and videos of the students and relating to what they are doing in class.  Including the students’ projects and thoughts also helps the students feel a part of the blog and the online community.  They can visit the blog and see their work proudly displayed on one of the pages or posts.  I’m sure that must be very exciting for them.

The thing I was most impressed with about this blog is how clean and easy to navigate it is.  I also really liked how each grade has its own sort of blog-within-a-blog.  This blog is for the entire middle school, but allows each grade to have its own section.  The site is maintained by the school’s technology integration coordinator, and it is very obvious that this person knows what he (or she) is doing.  I can tell a big difference in this blog compared to some of the other blogs I’ve looked at that are maintained by just the average teacher.  I believe this blog has educational value in that it provides an online community for the students and also allows the parents to see what the students are doing and creating.

My ideas on classroom blogs…

I believe that classroom blogs can be a great source of connection and communication between the students and their teachers.  It provides one specific place for news to be shared, announcements to be given, and assignments to be discussed.  Also, it allows an easy way of asking and answering questions from the students.  I would probably start a blog for my classes for those very reasons.  Students these days (especially those in high school) spend a lot of time on the internet, so I think they would be more likely to hop over to a blog to check out assignments than to search through their stack of books to find their class notebook and flip through it until they find an assignment and instructions I gave them in class.  A blog also prevents students from misplacing assignment instructions and papers.

As I learned more about classroom blogging and as I experienced the benefits of it, I would share it with other educators in my building and county as a casual suggestion or discussion.  After having had real life experience with it, I believe what I said would carry more weight.  Especially as the other teachers could see how it was helping both me and my students.

Using professional blogs for professional development seems a bit tricky.  I suppose I could use them to learn new teaching methods and new resources that have become available to educators.  Also, I could use them to connect with other teachers and ask questions and discuss difficulties we face with a particular problem, situation, or technology.  Again, there are so many things to learn via blogs, I think many blogs could be used as a very informal means of professional development.

Learning Log #3

A week and a half into this course, and I finally feel as though I’m getting a little bit of a handle on what to do.  It still is a lot trying to remember to visit and respond on each mode of communication and read each post (discussion forum, GoogleReader, classmates’ blogs).  However, despite how time consuming it can be, I feel as though I’ve learned so much reading different people’s views on certain subjects.  I’ve especially been interested in what has been said on the discussion forum for this course.  I was relieved to find out that I am not the only one who gets confused and a little overwhelmed at the thought of copyright laws.  It seems as though it’s a big deal for a lot of people.  I’m quite sure that nobody intentionally engages in copyright infringement, however, we have all probably unknowingly done it at least a time or two.  Also, I’ve been very interested in reading everyone’s thoughts on building and maintaining an online presence.  To some people, it seems as though it comes easily.  Perhaps because they are especially computer savvy, or enjoy writing (blogging), or they like to use the internet as a way of connecting with like-minded people.  Others seem to prefer the traditional approach (networking and building relationships in person).  I’ve also been interested to read my classmates’ ideas on who to start a good digital PR campaign.  I am of the mind-set that networking is always good, no matter how it is done.  And because I am very comfortable using the internet, I love the idea of learning from and connecting with teachers across the nation (or even world) who I would have no other way of learning from without the internet.

Despite the initial difficulty I had, I’ve enjoyed getting this blog up and running.  Although I have not learned every capability of wordpress, I am gradually becoming more and more familiar with it.  I like to have an outlet for my thoughts on certain subjects, so this blog is right up my alley.  I’ve also enjoyed customizing the blog to my tastes.  Half the fun in starting up a new blog is making it uniquely mine (though I confess, I have a lot more tweaking to do!).

Reviewing three educator blogs…

The first educator blog I read has a heading titled “Think Thank Thunk – Dealing with the fear of being a boring teacher.”  I was drawn to this blog because I, too, worry about being a boring teacher.  I want to make the classroom a fun and engaging place for my students to learn.  I want to think outside of the box and come up with new ways to teach and learn old concepts, and this blog seemed dedicated to that idea.

The author’s posts discuss his plans for his classes and ways he is going to try to make learning interactive and engaging.  He also wrote about how he would grade the students throughout the semester.  I really enjoyed reading his thoughts on students participation and trying to tap into the imagination and thought processes of his students.  So often, it seems that teachers stick to the old curriculum because it is safe, easier, and often required.  The author of that blog seems to really think about ways to have his students take control of their own learning and really be involved in the material they are studying.  For example, the author’s post entitled “Rocks & Weather: Getting My Qualitative On” talks about how he wants to get the students involved in the learning process, giving them few instructions and hoping they will let their curiosity and imagination guide them in their learning.  I love the idea of allowing the students’ curiosity to grow and develop into real, engaged learning.

The purpose of the blog seems to be to share thoughts, throw around ideas, and get input from readers.  Sometimes the author poses questions to his readers.  Many times he describes his plans and writes about some of his ideas.  It seems as though the author uses the blog as a place to get his thoughts out and also to connect with other people.  I think the author is very effective in achieving his purpose.  I was encouraged by reading his posts to think outside of the box when I teach, and I noticed that he received many comments from fellow teachers and readers in response to his thoughts and questions.

The second blog I read is titled “Langwitches Blog – The Magic of Learning.”  This blog seems to be about languages and technology integration, as the author worked as a World Language teacher, Technology Integration Facilitator, and a 21st Century Learning Specialist.  I thought this blog would be very interesting to read in conjunction with this course.

The purpose of the blog seems to be to share ideas with other teachers and to promote the author’s passions in the area of education.  I found that the author is very effective in sharing her thoughts on the subjects she is interested in and posts about.  She often includes links to other sites or some kind of picture or audio or video clip to reinforce or illustrate her points.  I really like the idea of linking other sites because it provides the opportunity for readers to read more about the subject she is blogging about if they are interested.  Also, the clips and pictures make the blog more interesting and engaging.

For example, the first post I read includes the video we watched in this course about copyright laws.  I found it somewhat amusing that the first post in the blog relates to what we are studying in SLM508.  And, had I not already seen the clip, I know I would have found it very helpful and amusing to watch and perhaps include it in a lesson I may prepare for my students.  Instead of just stating her ideas, the author backs the ideas up and gives helpful hints to other teachers.

Finally, the last of the three educator blogs I read is called “Finding Ways for All Kids to Flourish.”  This blog seems to be focused on sharing thoughts and helpful resources and ideas for teachers.  She also includes audio clips, video clips, and pictures.  I noticed on the most recent post of the blog, “Just the Right Amount of Challenge“, the author introduces the topic with a few written sentences, then attaches an audio clip of her discussing her thoughts on the matter of the right amount of challenge for students.  I thought it was kind of a neat idea to include audio and video of the author, it gives the blog a more personal touch.

The author seems to post about anything related to being an educator that she happens to be thinking about at the time.  Topics range from bullying to visual reminders, from connecting with students and teachers across the globe to promoting a positive climate in the classroom.  I like the relaxed, personal feel of the blog.  The author has a detailed description of who she is and what she does which gives the reader insight into her life and area of expertise.

I feel as though the purpose of the blog (to throw around thoughts and inform readers) is effectively met through the clear writing and back up of pictures and clips.  I noticed that this blogger does not to seem to have as many followers and does not update as often as the other bloggers I explored today.  The comments on her posts range from zero to less than ten.  I wonder if it is because the author does not update as often as the other bloggers…  I did, however, find the blog interesting and containing helpful ideas related to teaching.

My ideas on blogging…

I think it is a great idea to use blogs to connect with and learn from other teachers.  There are so many wonderful ideas and creative teachers, that it would be a great shame to not use blogs to share and tap into those resources.  Even though I am studying to teach English, I still find it interesting to read blogs by teachers of different subjects.  Even though the material is very different, I’ve found I can still learn a lot from them and even use a modified version of some of their ideas.

I will incorporate blogs into my own experience as a teacher by starting and maintaining a blog containing my thoughts, ideas, questions, and even struggles.  I will also build connections with other teachers online so that we can exchange ideas and help each other grow and improve the effectiveness of our teaching.  I would also mention the idea of blogging to fellow teachers and encourage them to check it out, telling them the benefits I have experienced from being a part of that online community.  It’s important to always be growing and learning as a teacher, and I believe using blogs and connecting with other teachers would greatly aid that development and growth.

Learning Log #2

Wow, it feels as though the first week of this course just flew by! I confess, I feel like I’m a little overwhelmed from trying to keep up with all the different places to communicate. All the threads on the discussion board, the SLM Cafe, and each classmate’s blog (while also trying to make time to read the sites in my GoogleReader).

I am somewhat familiar with some of the content we have already covered. Copyright laws, Skype, and blogging are not new to me. However, wordpress, GoogleReader, and Creative Commons licenses are. Although it feels like a daunting task to learn so much about how to use technology in the classroom and for our students’ learning, I am very excited about it. Last semester I talked to my mentor teacher several times about how to use technology in the classroom and the pros and cons of it. As an RLA teacher, her classroom was not as equipped with newer technology as the science and math classrooms were. However, she often made class trips to the media room or computer lab to allow the students to work on the computers and use some of the resources available on the internet. My mentor teacher did not seem to be especially computer savvy, but she did have a desire to integrate new technology into the classroom, knowing how important and useful it can be. After my internship with her, I am even more excited to learn about technology for the advancement of my students. I am lucky to have the chance to take a class dedicated to this subject (as my mentor teacher sort of had to learn as she went), and I hope to make the most of it!

Learning my way around…

This is my first time using wordpress. I have had and currently have personal blogs on xanga and blogspot, respectively. I’m still learning my way around wordpress, but so far, it seems to have a lot more capabilities and options than my current blog on blogspot. There are so many resources on the internet and with technology that it’s hard to believe I’ll ever know even a portion of what is available. However, I’m really looking forward to learning about some of it and using it to the advantage of my future students and career. I hope to be a computer savvy teacher and to use diverse resources to educate my students. I believe this course will greatly help me in that endeavor. So, here we go!