Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Story Builder

This morning, while waiting for a conference to begin, I took a look at my Feedly. I've been super busy lately, both at work and home, so I had not explored my RSS feed in quite some time. I Evernoted several strategies/apps, but one blog post immediately caught my eye. iLearnTechnology has a great, indepth post all about Google Story Builder. I immediately thought of several ways that my faculty could use this in the classroom for quick assessments.

Here's a quick video tutorial:

Here's a sample one I created to share with my faculty:

I do wish that Story Builder had the option for an embed code as well as a link to the finished video, but it's still a nifty little site! Best of all, it's iPad friendly!

How could you use this in the classroom?

Friday, November 1, 2013

Smore: A Fabulous Online Flyer-Creation Tool!

Have you checked out yet? It's a great website to use for creating engaging flyers. It's free to use and allows you to create dynamic flyers, rather than just a static PDF file. You can easily add videos, websites, pictures, and even surveys just by dragging and dropping each type of item onto your flyer. If you want to delete a section of your flyer, simply drag it off the screen and then it's gone! Here's a quick video from smore that tells a little more about it.

A Cupcake Story from Smore on Vimeo.

How could you use this in your classroom? This would be a great communication tool to use for parent flyers, extracurricular clubs, school newsletters, etcetera. I used Smore to create the flyer below, to share a few apps with my teachers as a continuation of my professional development session that week. I've also used it to create flyers for my gym, to let members know about our holiday hours and to share some healthy holiday recipes.

What are you waiting for? Go to and sign up for your own free account. Be creative and start sharing!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Back to School: A Teacher's Prayer

The week leading up to the return of students is always full of planning, renewing friendships with colleagues, and of course lots of meetings. Today has been a day full of meetings and trainings, and I felt so frazzled trying to answer everyone's questions, work through my to-do list, and get everywhere on time. I found this poster earlier this month while searching for digital citizenship posters for my teachers, and thankfully happened upon it again today. I needed this reminder, and I'm sure there are many educators who are feeling the stress and the chaos of preparing for our first day with students, so I wanted to share it here. I found this on Technology Rocks. Seriously (I love the name of this blog!)

So here it is. Prepare your classrooms, your bulletin boards, your seating charts, your lesson plans, your technology, but don't forget to prepare your heart to welcome our students.

May you all have a wonderful first day and week of school! Let this school year be your best year ever!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

LEC 8.1 Reflection: iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Teaching

Read the (iNACOL) National Standards for Quality Online Teaching (PDF), and assess your readiness for quality online teaching. Then, write a personalized reflection that focuses on your areas of strength and your areas of need. Support your reflection with the corresponding iNACOL standard.
  1. Think about your Leading Edge Online and Blended Teacher Certification experience.
  2. Read the iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Teaching.
  3. Assess your readiness for quality online teaching in relation to each Standard.
  4. Write a personalized reflection that focuses on your areas of strength and your areas for growth relative to each of the iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Teaching. 
  5. Support your reflection with specific examples from the Teacher Knowledge and Understanding or Teacher Abilities sections of the iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Teaching.

  iNACOL Standard A
The online teacher knows the primary concepts and structures of effective online instruction and is able to create learning experiences to enable student success. 

 Strengths: After participating in the Leading Edge Certification course, I feel that I am aware of most of the structures of effective online instruction, and I will be able to create learning experiences to enable student success. As a Technology Integration Specialist, I am cognizant of the need to continue to update my academic knowledge, pedagogy, and skills. I can meet South Carolina’s professional teaching standards. I am actually certified as a mentor and teacher observer/evaluator. I can use my content knowledge and instructional design knowledge to create rich and meaningful experiences for my students.
 Weaknesses: I have never taught a course that is entirely online. I believe that I have the capacity to do so, and to do it well, but I still lack that experience.

 iNACOL Standard B 
 The online teacher understands and is able to use a range of technologies, both existing and emerging, that effectively support student learning and engagement in the online environment. 

Strengths: This standard I feel exemplifies some of my strengths. As a technology specialist, part of my role within the school to model and co-teach classes using various online tools/apps to support and extend student and teacher learning. I am able to use a variety of these online tools effectively for a variety of purposes, include communication, collaboration, productivity, etcetera. I am also able to apply troubleshooting skills for both my faculty and my students. In our first year of 1:1 iPads, I had a great deal of experience troubleshooting various apps and technical issues for all students and staff. Weaknesses: I feel I could do a better job of modeling subject-specific and developmentally appropriate tools and resources for my students and staff. I am aware of many tools, but did not determine an efficient and effective way to share this knowledge with my teachers last year.

 iNACOL Standard C 
The online teacher plans, designs, and incorporates strategies to encourage active learning, application, interaction, participation, and collaboration in the online environment. 

Strengths : I feel that I am able to plan, design and incorporate many strategies to encourage active learning, participation, and collaboration in the online environment. I have facilitated and monitored online discussion groups and encouraged higher order thinking. I have a good working knowledge of how to communicate frequently and interact with students, parents, and mentors. I also know how to encourage communication between students as well.
 Weaknesses: Once again, I am comfortable with most of these indicators, but lack experience implementing them in an entirely online classroom. I feel more confident about using these skills in a blended learning environment, but I feel that I will be able to adapt and adjust as necessary when teaching in the online environment. One part that I am particularly concerned with is making real-world connections with the student learning activities. When I was a classroom teacher, I taught Ancient World History to 6th graders. I found it difficult to make those real-world connections, or attempt inquiry-based learning when the students were learning about Ancient Mesopotamia, or Rome. I also believe I need to continue to learn about how to create a sense of community in an entirely online course. In my experience, the classroom community was enhanced when I added the blended learning component to my traditional classroom, but have not discovered yet how to completely recreate that camaraderie and community in an online setting.

 iNACOL Standard D
 The online teacher promotes student success through clear expectations, prompt responses, and regular feedback. 

 Strengths: As a teacher, I believe I am confident in my expertise providing clear definitions of objectives, concepts, and learning outcomes to my students. I can also provide a clear explanations of assessment criteria, and can use student data to inform and modify instruction as needed.
 Weaknesses: I believe I can establish and provide clear expectations of class interaction and teacher response time to my students, and have learned through my blended experience how important those clear expectations are. When I first transitioned to a blended learning environment through the use of Edmodo, I was recovering from a foot injury, and as such, was online all of the time at home, as I wasn’t allowed to participate in any of my typical physical activities and hobbies. As a result, when my foot healed, my students still expected the turnaround times of when I was sedentary. It took me a week or two to establish those new expectations. Another of my major concerns is addressing the needs of struggling learners in an online environment. I am confident of my abilities to do so in a traditional classroom, but still do not feel confident in creating interventions and reaching those struggling students in an online environment.

 iNACOL Standard E 
 The online teacher models, guides, and encourages legal, ethical, and safe behavior related to technology use. 

Strengths: As a technology specialist, I make sure to model proper ethical use of resources found online in every classroom I co-teach in. I always addressed these issues in the classroom, as well as modeling and teaching the proper way to cite sources. I provide many resources for my students on copyright and proper use.
 Weaknesses: I could do a better job at modeling these appropriate behaviors with my faculty as well, to ensure that students are hearing and seeing appropriate use throughout the school day. I could learn more and do a better job of communicated with students the FERPA guidelines for their online behaviors and posts.

 iNACOL Standard F
 The online teacher is cognizant of the diversity of student academic needs and incorporates accommodations into the online environment. 

Strengths: There was so much in Module 5 that I was completely unaware of. Before this course, I would have said this area was one of my strengths. After learning about Section 508 and the many accommodations that are ideal for students who are sight, learning, or hearing disabled, my confidence in this area has greatly diminished. I still believe that I do a good job research and learning about various strategies and technology tools that can help my students be more successful.
 Weaknesses: As stated above, I need to do a better job at making sure that my online resources are accessible to all. A major concern I have is learning how to accommodate student needs when the tech tools that could be used for assignments are not accommodating themselves. I can do a better job of previewing/screening online resources to make sure that they are accessible to all of my students. I can also do a better job of creating multiple paths to accommodate diverse learning styles and abilities. I do a good job of this with major assignments in the classroom, but can improve on my diversification of formative assessments.

 iNACOL Standard G
 The online teacher demonstrates competencies in creating and implementing assessments in online learning environments in ways that ensure validity and reliability of the instruments and procedures. 

Strengths: When I was a classroom teacher, I believe that I used and implemented a variety of assessments. I worked with other subject area teachers in my school and district to assure that our tests were both valid and reliable. I believe I could transition this skill set to the online environment. Weaknesses: I could do a better job at creating more performance tasks and relying less on selected response items. Also, even though I have use multiple Web 2.0 tools in the past for assessment purposes, I have not really looked into how secure these tools are.

 iNACOL Standard H 
The online teacher develops and delivers assessments, projects, and assignments that meet standards-based learning goals and assesses learning progress by measuring student achievement of the learning goals. 

Strengths: I believe I did a good job of meeting standards-based learning goals in my classroom. I created a variety of projects, assessments and assignments, and was diligent to make sure that the assignments lined up with the standards being taught. I sought feedback from students before and after summative assessments, and used this informal information to modify my lessons and reteach as necessary.
Weaknesses: My main area of weakness in the development of assessments is the creation and alignment of authentic assessments to the standards in my Social Studies classroom. Now that we are moving to the Common Core, I think it will be easier to create authentic assessments by using the Literacy Standards for the Social Studies. Our state social studies standards focus on retaining facts, and not on skills, which made it difficult to create authentic assessments that are also standards-based.

 iNACOL Standard I
 The online teacher demonstrates competency in using data from assessments and other data sources to modify content and to guide student learning. 

Strengths: I believe that I do a good job evaluating instructional strategies and tools for their accuracy and usefulness, and providing opportunities for self-reflection or assessment of teacher effectiveness through surveying students, gathering peer feedback, etcetera. I believe that I am capable of customizing online instruction for students in order to meet their needs, but I have no done so yet. I use observational data when working with my students and teachers to monitor their progress. I do an excellent job of maintaining records of relevant communications. This process has become much easier in the digital age we live in.
 Weaknesses: I need to do a better job of using student data to plan instruction. I do look at data to modify assessments and determine who needs remediation/reteaching, but I could do a better job of doing this consistently, for all assessments. I believe I can customize/personalize instruction for students in an online setting, but I would have to work at this to do this in an effective and efficient manner. 

iNACOL Standard J
 The online teacher interacts in a professional, effective manner with colleagues, parents, and other members of the community to support students’ success. 

 Strengths: I feel this standard is one of my greatest strengths. I engage in and provide professional development activities at my school and participate in district, state, and national opportunities for PD. I actively participate in my PLN within the district and online, and continue to learn from my peers on Twitter, Edmodo, LinkedIn, and the blogosphere. I do a good job updating parents and other concerned adults about student progress on a regular basis.
 Weaknesses: None

 iNACOL Standard K 
The online teacher arranges media and content to help students and teachers transfer knowledge most effectively in the online environment. 
Strengths: This is another standard in which I am extremely strong. I understand and know the critical digital literacies and 21st century skills, and also understand the appropriate use of technologies to enhance learning. On a regular basis, I use an LMS to modify and add content and assessment, create engaging content, multimedia and visual resources, review materials and Web resources for their alignment with course objectives, and standards, etcetera. To me, this standard represents a major focus of my job as a TIS. I am at the school to train teachers in using technologies appropriately, and to model and co-teach with them so that they become confident and comfortable in using a variety of technologies and tools to enhance their students learning. I love this part of my job!
 Weaknesses: I can learn more about creating online assignments, projects, and assessments that align with students’ different visual, auditory, and hands-on ways of learning. I did a good job of this in the traditional classroom, but need to learn more about how to incorporate all of these different modalities into an online classroom.

 Final Reflection 

How have you changed as a learner and an instructor through this process? 

As a learner, I have grown and learned more time-management strategies. This is the first class I have taken that was entirely online. There were certain weeks, particularly if I was traveling or had family visiting, that I had to pace myself and set mini-deadlines for myself in order to get the modules completed on time(without spending hours on it each Sunday!) The time management aspect of an online course was more difficult than I thought it would be. As an instructor, I have learned so much about teaching in online and blended learning environments. I look forward to sharing my new knowledge with my staff this coming school year as we move to a more blended learning environment.

 What is your action plan for implementing changes in your teaching practice as a result of new learning? 

 I plan to use the tools and knowledge that I have gained in this course in several ways. I plan to make my syllabi and tech session handouts ADA compliant, and to also make my many screencasts more accessible through the use of closed captioning. I also plan to model these tools and concepts to the faculty at my school

How do you plan to continue your learning about online teaching?

 I will continue my learning by doing! I, along with the other technology integration specialists in my district, are going to work together to co-create/revise a simpler version of this course to use with our teachers as we move to a blended learning environment. Quite simply, this will give me the opportunity to co-develop an online learning courselet for our teachers that I will facilitate at my school. I will also continue to use my PLN to learn more, particularly in those areas I have identified as weaknesses. I enjoyed learning so many new concepts and ideas in this course, and I look forward to what the coming school year will bring!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

LEC 6.3 Reflection: Technology & Assessment

This module has explored the use of technology tools for both formative and summative assessment. As you think about how you will implement formative and summative assessments in the online and blended environments, what are some of the factors you need to consider?

As in the traditional classroom, I think it is important to use a variety of formats for both formative and summative assessments, in order to best reach student needs. In the online and blended learning environments, there are many additional considerations that are not concerns for paper and pencil classrooms. One of the first concerns that comes to mind is that ideally, these assessments, formative and summative, should be device agnostic. Even if the school has a specific program that provides students with devices, if they are working at home it is very possible that they will be using a different OS than that of the school. I myself have been frustrated with e-learning courses when I was not able to use my tablet for the assignments, and had to switch back to my PC. 

Feedback is another major concern. Ideally, the tool used for assessment should have feedback either built in natively, or the instructor should be able to give feedback easily via his/her chosen LMS. For example, Socrative, Google Forms(with Flubaroo), Edmodo Quiz, Infuse Learning, etcetera all have methods of feedback that are quick and easy for both the teacher and the student. The timeliness of feedback is vital to the success of the student in any classroom, but moreso in the online environment, when the student is not getting daily feedback in a traditional classroom setting. 

Technical support and back up are also both important items to consider. Without proper technical support, either from the LMS or within the school, it can be extremely frustrating for teachers attempting to implement the online or blended learning scenario. It is important in the blended learning scenario to have a back up plan in case something goes wrong when attempting the online assessments. (The website is suddenly blocked, the wi-fi goes down, students do not have their device in class, etcetera.) Flexibility is key in the classroom, whether the classroom is virtual, blended or traditional. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

LEC 4.3 Reflection: Social & Professional Networks

  • When does the Internet help your learning? When does it distract from good learning for you?
  • How might your answers to these questions be similar to or different from the answers your students might give?
  • How might you support your students in using the Internet as their own personal learning space?

The internet is a wonderful place, full of new ideas and new connections! It is also an amazing procrastination helper. I utilize Boolean search, websites, RSS feeds, and my social and professional networks to expand my learning. I do tend to keep my professional and personal networks separate. I use Twitter, RSS feeds, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+ and Edmodo for my professional learning networks. Facebook I use primarily for my personal network, although there is some crossover. (I manage my gym’s social networking presence, so I’m on Facebook quite a bit because of that position.)

Typically, the internet serves as a distractor when I decide to check Facebook or Pinterest for “just a minute” before beginning my work. A half hour later, I’m usually still perusing links that people posted on Facebook rather than working on the assigned task. For me, I have to “ban myself” from Facebook until I’ve completed that task. Otherwise, I go off on tangents and it takes me twice as long to complete the original task. It can also help immensely, as I can pose questions to my learning networks and leverage the knowledge and experience of hundreds of educators, rather than relying solely on my knowledge. When I have the opportunity, I feel like I learn the most when I am able to take part in the real-time conversations through #edchat or #sschat or #edtech. 

If this question was posed to my students, I think that their answers would be different from mine. Most of them also agree that Facebook can be distracting, but few of them have fully utilized their social networks as learning networks. In part, this is due to their perception of social networking, but also due to district filtering policies. Students cannot access Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etcetera while at school. All social networking apps are blocked in our district, which leads students to believe that networking and learning are separate. When I started using Edmodo with my students, many of them began to leverage our “group” on Edmodo as part of their learning network. They would post questions about homework or project assignments to the group, and often these questions would be answered before I even had a chance to reply. This network is still not ideal, because students cannot connect with other students on an individual basis. 

I can support my students in using the Internet for their personal learning by continuing to model and demonstrate effective ways to use the Internet for learning. I can model how I use my networks for learning, model and teach effective ways to research using online resources. I can continue to teach and discuss digital citizenship as well. Hopefully, the conversation will continue in our district and we will be able to change the current ban on social networking apps(for students).