Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Journal #9 - How to Do More with Less (NETS 1 & 2)

Pape, L., Sheehan, T., & Worrell, C. (2012). How to do more with less. Learning and Leading with Technology, March(April), 18-22. Retrieved from


This article attempts to address the concern that there is an increasing demand of performance out of students, but there is a decrease in budget and resources available to teachers. They are concerned that students are expected to learn new digital skills, but there is no clear way in which to teach them. Two new methods of teacher are showcased in this article: blended teaching and flipped classroom instruction. Blended teaching is where a teacher uses digital things to supplement and enhance their classroom. And a flipped classroom is where a teacher uses technology to to deliver their class lectures such as podcasts or videos. By using this method the students can play back the lecture as many times as they need to. Both methods rely heavily on free online resources. The article finishes by giving many examples of how these methods were used in real classrooms.


1. What are some problems that can arise from using these methods in the classroom?

The biggest glaring problem with flipped classroom instruction is that it assumes the students will go home and work diligently on their schoolwork. We all remember being kids, and getting us to do homework was a chore. I feel this method is too Utopian, in that it relies heavily that the kids will remain on task. Without homework to further show examples, and without any real accountability, it seems this method could be very frustrating for some students.

2. How could these methods benefit your students?

These teaching methods encourage the use of technology. Not only are the students encouraged to learn the subject matter, but they are encouraged to become tech-savvy and to help each other out. The blended teaching method seems like it would build more of a community in the classroom because there is a way in which they could help out their peers. Also, the classroom could come home with the students which allows them to interact outside of school, which some have no other access to do.

Journal #6 - Foster in Creativity and Innovation Through Technology (NETS 1 & 2)

Vaidyanathan, S. (2012). Fostering creativity and innovation through technology. Learning and Leading with Technology, March/April, 24-27. Retrieved from


The main point of this article is that there are different ways in which we can encourage our kids to take interest in the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). The main way that she focuses on is through a digital design program for elementary students. The kids are encouraged to be creative and innovative through the use of free programs such as Scratch, Google SketchUp, and Seashore. Each grade level has a project on one of those programs, and they get more advanced projects as they go up in grade level. What she found is that the kids really enjoy doing these projects, and even come in on recess and open computer lab to work on their projects. They also want to work on the projects at home. Many of the concepts such as vector graphing are directly related to the STEM subjects, in this case math. The kids get to be creative and work in a low-stress environment because there is no fear of failure.


1. What if a school isn't as fortunate as Los Altos and doesn't get donations?

This is something that was going through my mind as I was reading this article. She makes the claim that any school can afford a digital design program, but this isn't the case. Had it not been for "generous donations" they would not have been able to launch this program. So to rely on something like that is foolish. If this is to be instituted widely in schools it would need a more stable bit of funding, which means being approved by the district.

2. Will taking time away from students to work on digital design hurt them in other subjects?

I think the digital design idea is a very innovative way to get kids interested in the STEM subjects, but there is no real substitute for instruction. I feel that depending on how much time is devoted to this class, it could take away some valuable time learning the important things they are tested on. In short, I believe that as long as we have standardized testing and use that as a benchmark, this program can not fit in schools.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Journal #8 - Adaptive Technology (NETS 2 & 3)


Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is any method of communication used to to supplement or replace speech. AAC are methods employed in order to help those with severe language and speech problems interact with others or assist them in learning.

                      Low-Tech Communication Tool

A very simple low-tech tool I discovered is a Visual Schedule. It is used to communicate with autistic students what they are expected to do each day, and it gives them a visual representation of what they have already completed. Visual Schedules are used to develop a child's organization skills and independent functioning throughout their daily life. These schedules could be simple such as words written on a whiteboard, or even graphics on a poster board. They are a first-then strategy, meaning they tell the student "first you do ___, then you do ___." To supplement these daily Visual Schedules you can also use calendars which will further organize the student so they know what is expected of them over the long period of time. 

                  High-Tech Communication Tool

A company I found that develops high-tech AAC devices is ZYGO. They have a tool called the Optimist MMX that converts text to speech, and uses pictures and a touch pad display to make its usage easier. This tool can be used to help a student with severe speech problems communicate with their peers or their teacher. It also allows for the teacher to visually represent the words and ideas to the student by using the graphics on the screen. But this device is very desirable because of its ease of use. It has both a keyboard for typing and a touch screen that can be folded back and rotated. This device is best suited for a child with a speech disorder, but its ease of use and its use of pictures can also help out a child with a learning disability connect a picture to a word.  


An input device is a device that is used to input information into a computer such as a keyboard, mouse, controller, scanner, or eye tracker. There are special kinds of input devices made specifically for the disabled.


I found that there is an entire market of special keyboards known as alternate keyboards. These keyboards offer different types of added accessibility to those with disabilities from larger keys, special lighting and color patterns, to light keystrokes such as the Magic Wand Keyboard. This keyboard is intended for use by those who can't press the keys, so they market it as a no strength keyboard. In the classroom this keyboard could be used for students who have a severe lack in motor skills or are limited in mobility, as all they have to do is lightly touch they keys with the wand. 


The software I chose to look at for an input device was called Dragon by a company called Nuance. It takes the speech from the person at the computer and it converts it into text. It is basically a speech into text program. This software could be used to allow someone with a visual or physical disability to use a computer.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Journal #7 - My Personal Learning Network (NETS 4 & 5)

A PLN (Personal Learning Network) is a network of people linked together with the purpose of sharing thoughts and ideas to improve as educators. A PLN can share lesson plans, teaching strategies, form support groups for new teachers, or just give someone a place to go who has a specific need or question. To build my PLN, I use Twitter, Diigo, and I have joined a message board called The Educator's PLN. These tools are invaluable for me as a teacher, because they give me a good place to discover the knowledge gathered by experienced teachers who have come before me. As a new teacher, I am limited in the resources available, but if I build a strong PLN, then the knowledge available to me increases greatly. 

A great place to start building your PLN is on Twitter. There are plenty of people on there for the sole purpose to help out in a variety of ways. I followed some great people who spend their free time making sure they pass on their knowledge. These people include Tom Whitby and David Wees from #edchat, and Lisa Dabbs, Joan Young, and Jerry Blumengarten from #ntchat. I was pleasantly surprised on the amount of time and hard work they put into these chats. On March 28 at 5:00 PM I joined #ntchat, seeing as I am a soon to be new teacher and this might help me. The topic was "How is Coaching & Mentoring Helpful?" They set up four questions and opened up chat for participants to answer. I contributed what little I could to the chat on my opinions of mentoring, and I received great insight as to what others think of coaching and mentoring new teachers. I learned that this topic is a bit of a controversy in some schools, and that some schools just don't offer coaching for new teachers. This chat got me to thinking how much I would gain from having a mentor, or even a coach when I start teaching. It made me think how much more comfortable I would be in a school that embraces me as a new teacher, and offers me assistance. When I choose a school to start my career, if I have the choice between two schools, one with mentoring and one without, I will definitely choose the one with mentoring.

Many of us have utilized bookmarks in our browsers, but these just give us a link to a site. This link loses it's meaning to us over time, and we can't share it if we wanted to. Diigo changes bookmarking for the better. It allows us not only to tag our bookmarks for our own recollection, but it allows us to describe the bookmark, highlight important parts, and to share out our links to other link-minded people. Diigo takes bookmarking, and turns it into another tool to enhance our PLN. It becomes another tool in our social network much like Twitter. It allows us to follow who we think are interesting, and provides a place to search for these people. I found some people to follow on Diigo by searching for the term PLN. I found a resource that had a list of blogs created by educators for educators. One of these blogs was about the use of technology in the classroom. The other two blogs I bookmarked were specifically about using technology in a history classroom, which was neat for me since that is the topic I want to teach. I found these blogs through a single post on Diigo, and I followed the person who linked the site. I then went into her profile and followed some of the people she had followed. You can see how this creates a network that is easily to navigate. I would have never found these blogs and these people to follow if not for Diigo. 

I signed up for an educational discussion forum called Educator's PLN. On this site there are various kinds of resources. There is the classic style discussion forum where you can ask questions, voice opinions, and share resources. Then there are sections which you can share videos, events, and blogs. It is all organized so that it is easy to use and that you won't get lost or run into dead ends. I glanced over the videos and I found one in particular that interested me. It was an animation by Sir Ken Robinson entitled "School Kills Creativity." In this video Ken draws and animates along as he talks about the current state of education. He states very strongly that the way we are teaching our kids today is based on an old technique that is no longer relevant. We no longer teach our kids to be successful in the world we live in today. A college education used to mean immediate access into a good job, and this no longer is the case. In a way I agree that we are teaching our kids like we are still in the enlightenment. Grades and standardized testing marginalize the kids who are not deemed "smart" and stifle creativity. We are so focused on the core subjects and the testing, that we cut things from the curriculum that could help kids after they graduate from high school. This one video on Educator's PLN video library brought all this thought to my head. I started to internally challenge the way I want to teach. This is a valuable resource to educators and is a great way to expand your own PLN.