Sunday, May 4, 2014


Professional Learning Network
professional learning network

I have learned the value of a Professional Learning Network, and being able to learn from educators not only in my own state, but from around the globe. After having my eyes opened to the vast number of educators who have professional blogs, Twitter accounts, LinkedIn accounts, and other social networking sites, I have found valuable resources, almost all of them free, awesome websites, and even free software I can use with my students in the media center. Additionally, having a PLN has allowed me to stay on top of the latest technology tools and how to integrate them into teaching, and how to better collaborate with the teachers in my school for the benefit of the students. Before now, I wasn't as up to date on educational news or politics, but I have started following a few interesting people on Twitter, and am more aware of issues which helps me make better choices for our media center. To date, my PLN includes not only the students from EDM 510 and 310, but highly regarded media specialists, teachers, and educational specialists around the world. This network has genuinely helped me to become a better educator.

EDM 510 Final Reflection

self reflection

Final thoughts for what I have learned in EDM 510 and what I will take with me can be viewed in my video by clicking here. Thank you, Dr. Strange, for the opportunity to learn new, exciting things I will now be able to share with my students through the media center.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

C4T Rotating

Silvia Tolisano
Langwitches logl

Wow! What a blog site! Silvia Tolisano is a former World Language teacher currently dedicated to globally connected learning, 21st century skills and learning, and technology integration. This lady is the, and if you haven't checked out her blog, take a look at it here.

I commented on a post she made recently about students who were preparing for SLC, or student led conferences, where students prepare presentations for their parents to let them know how they stand in the state of their learning. Each student had to prepare a blog post for each subject which contained a title, an artifact, and a reflection. The amount of time students spent preparing for the SLCs was considerable, time-consuming, and tiring, even to the point of students complaining they were sick and tired of blogging. However, after the process of the interviews was over, the students agreed they were better off for having gone through the process. Check out the entire blog post here, and my comments to Silvia below:

At the beginning of 2014, I was thrown into the world of blogging for the first time. As a 20 year veteran of a public school system in Alabama, the opportunities for blogging had not been presented to me as a requirement, or even really a suggestion. Now, however, because of a certification course, I have learned to create my own blog, follow other teacher blogs, comment on peers’ blogs, comment on students’ blogs, and basically blog until I thought my eyeballs were going to fall out. I completely understand some of the comments of your students about feeling like they were blogging to appease the teacher, however, I can admit I have gained an immeasurable amount of skill in areas I thought I was already proficient. Plus, I didn’t realize until after starting a blog the value of creating a PLN. Thus, your objectives for continuing with a rigorous program of SLC, blogging, and reflection holds merit.

Will Deyamport

peoplegogy logo

Will Deyamport started this blog in 2009 as a way to connect educators and lead discussions about digital media and to help educators improve their personal and professional lives. I found this discussion between Dr. Deyamport and Dr. Eva Lantsoght interesting because they exchanged dialog about their blogging experiences, and what got them started blogging. You can visit Dr. Eva's blog here. Below are my comments to Dr. Eva after reading her interview with Dr. Deyamport.

I have been a media specialist in an elementary library for 3 and a half years, but have 20 years overall experience in the field of education. Before this year, I had never blogged, and approached it with hesitation primarily due to time constraints and basically feeling as if what I had to write wouldn't be of interest enough for another person to want to read. The later may still be the case, however, I have learned so much from other bloggers and the PLN I have begun to develop to the point where I can see blogging becoming another extension of my profession. While I am yet the reluctant blogger with regard to what I personally post, I would eventually like to do as Eva stated and write blogs which would help answer questions instead of writing reflections about my own experiences. Thank you both for your insight and for sharing your expertise on the topic of blogging.

Average is Over Video Book Review

Average is over

To view my video book review of Tyler Cowen's Average is Over, please click here.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

C4T Chosen by Me

Library Girl

Even if you are not a Library Media Specialist, Jennifer LaGarde's blog, The Adventures of a Library Girl, is really a treat. She is witty, intellectual, and provides on the cusp information for keeping education current, exciting, and relevant. I was able to see her over the summer at a conference for new media specialists, and was impressed with her drive to keep media centers and media specialists viable components of school systems. Since then, I have followed her blog, even before having the assignment made for this course. The following are posts I have made to her this past month.

Awards Are Nice But It's The Work That Matters

In this post, Jennifer talks about, once again, the importance of media specialists finding and maintaining a strong voice for keeping media centers open across the country as budget cuts continue to force some libraries to close their doors. She points out opportunities for librarians to nominate themselves for awards (such as the School Librarian of the Year Award sponsored by Scholastic and the Bammy! Awards) to show they are indispensable members of the learning community highlighting exceptional work of children.

Here is what I wrote to her:

I appreciate your efforts to passionately and consistently provide pertinent information to help us all become advocates to keep school libraries viable components of the learning environment. Your work and leadership is helping bolster people like me who, relatively new to the arena of library media, need the correct language and approach by which to build a strong case for the role of the library media specialist and also for the importance of a well-stocked library. I definitely agree with your comments about the awards being great, but the best part being what you're able to provide the children by having an award winning media center.

#WhyLib | My Journey to Librarianship

Jennifer tells us her story in this post of how she made the decision to become a school librarian after becoming disgruntled with the work she was doing as a classroom teacher, and feeling like she was being pressured to "teach to the test". In her inspirational account of how she moved from school to school during her own time as a student, she shares how she feels motivated now to make a difference in the lives of students as a librarian because the library seemed to be the one place of refuge she found as she moved from place during her formative years. She definitely is making a huge impact in the world of librarians across the country, as she is a major voice for advocacy and a leader among media specialists.

Here is my response to her story:

Thank you for this inspirational story. I was able to hear you give this account in person last summer at a conference in Alabama, and I've followed your blog ever since because you left such an impression on me. You definitely are making an impact on others, including myself, in ways I'm sure you don't realize, so the debt you are repaying is one you've paid many times over. Personally, when I became a librarian, I vowed never to be like the one I had in high school who was the typical "Lotta Scales" BEFORE her transformation! Thanks for being a great librarian as well as an awesome role model.

#TXLA14 | Reflections from San Antonio

After visiting San Antonio for the Texas Library Association Annual Conference, Jennifer recounted her experiences hosting workshops, but also attending some phenomenal sessions herself, including the Nerdy Book Club session. Even she, "The Library Girl" seemed to have been inspired by the group who presented, and gave some wonderful insight as to what she was able to come away with from the conference.

This is what I wrote to her:

From the sound of it, I wish I could have been a part of the Nerdy Book Club session, and the points you shared from what you experienced there were awesome. I will definitely check out the "rag tag" group--they sound like a bunch I'd like to hang out with. Thanks for posting such great highlights from your trip.

• Loving to read is legitimate. It's not something extra or nice, but not necessary. It's crucial and the work we do to help kids unlock that love is essential.
• Reading helps us feel less alone AND helps us recognize loneliness in others.
• Curricula, politics and the crisis of the day will come and go, but stories endure.
• The only thing more powerful than darkness is light. We have an obligation to share the light inside us. Stories help us do that.
• Every last one of us can change the world.

4 OTHER Ways To Keep Kids From Giving Up

Jennifer blogs here about how she wrestles with ways to keep students motivated, especially after reading an article entitled 4 Ways To Keep Students From Giving Up Before They Even Begin. Both the article she read and her thoughts reminded me a lot of the things I learned this semester about PBL and how to make what students are learning purposeful and important to them to give them motivation to learn. In addition to the additional tips she gives in her blog to supplement the article, she also includes the importance of not only the role of the teacher but the significance of the teacher librarian as the collaborator to extend the learning beyond the classroom, and to show students their learning is regarded by the entire educational community.

Here are my comments to her post:

I agree students feel stifled when they arrive at school because often times the assignments they are asked to perform are too structured, rigid, and downright boring to allow any creativity to flow from their brains. They also are expected all too often to produce answers to questions in unilateral ways instead of being given choices about how to create products or how to arrive at a solution to a problem. I have been following several teachers who are using PBL in their classrooms and schools, and many of your comments fall directly in line with the ideas of problem based learning. Thank you for adding your ideas to for other ways to keep kids from giving up. Where there's a will, there's a way!

C4T Semester Long-Assigned to Me

Teacher Tech

Kathleen Morris' Teacher Tech was the blog assigned to me for the semester. She is currently on maternity leave for the year, so some of the posts I replied to are a few months old, but still had relevant information which I found useful.

Blogging and the Literacy Curriculum

Ms. Morris wrote a post about how blogging can help to increase literacy in the classroom, and how blogging can help students become transliterate, so they can interact across several interfaces of media both digitally and traditionally. She shared very valid points for not only using blogging as an "add on" to the classroom, but making it a rigorous part of the curriculum and to stay committed as a teacher to incorporating blogging as a daily or at least weekly part of their routines. This is my response to her post.

Your tips on using blogs as a way to integrate literacy into the classroom are important for all educators to not only review, but put into pratice, primarily because of one of the points you raise in this post.
“The concept of literacy education has changed as technology has evolved. It is no longer enough to teach students how to read books and write on paper. ”
I agree with your statements about students needing to be taught 21st century skills, and traditional pedagogy will not meet the needs of today’s learners, nor will they keep them interested. Blogging is an excellent tool for both technology and literacy integration as well as a student motivator. The fact you have been blogging for six years with your students is amazing, and you are definitely an inspiration to other teachers who are looking to incorporate blogging into the curriculum.

Instructions for Using Creative Commons Images in Blog Posts

Kathleen has created an amazing infographic and step-by-step guide on how to properly upload and attribute images in a blog post, where to find Creative Commons images, how to use FlikrCC, and Wikimedia Commons in a downloadable file which can be shared with teachers and students. You can find the PDF file by clicking here. This is an invaluable tool I feel should be reviewed with students at least two or three times a year. This is my response to her post.

I appreciate this very useful resource for showing students how to properly upload and attribute images in blog posts. Many students as well as adults are simply not aware of the potential consequences copyright infringement, and your step-by-step guide will definitely be added to my dossier of items I will share with students and teachers as a media specialist. Thank you for sharing.

There’s Blogging and There’s Blogging…

In this post, Kathleen compares blogging where students blog in an unstructured vs. a structured style. Ms. Morris relates her experiences having a classroom blog since 2008, and points out the benefits of having blogs which begin as a class blog, then branch out to student blogs, have an established set of high standards for writing, netiquette, and design, plus consistent, quality feedback and parental involvement. I love the graphic she included in this post.

quality blogging

This is what I wrote to her:

I am glad you are able to admit it took time and a teacher centered effort to make your classroom blogs effective tools for helping to create quality writers. I am a media specialist in an elementary school in Alabama, and as of now, there are no teachers using classroom blogs. Because I have just learned about blogging at the beginning of this year, and have been following your blog as part of a course assignment, I have been inspired to start a library blog about books. I am hoping to host a professional development showing teachers how to set up a classroom blog for their students using your resource tools as a starter. I appreciate the documents you have prepared and posted for sharing as I have downloaded several of them. I hope to be able to someday inspire others as you have me, and I thank you for what you've been able to accomplish.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Post #10-What Did I Leave Out?

I Love Earth

I thought an idea for next semester could be to submit a lesson plan using the ALEX template. I've created one here appropriate for 1-2 graders to help celebrate Earth Day. I did this lesson with a group of first graders last week, and it went very well. You can see one of them explaining how he did his in the video below. He's simply adorable! The students create a computer "craftivity" showing ways to help save the planet. Would love some feedback if any of you have a chance to take a look, or especially if you have a chance to try it out with your students.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Video Review of Marc Prensky's Book

Teaching Digital Natives

Click here to view my video review of Marc Prensky's book, Teaching Digital Natives: Partnering for Real Learning.

Teaching and Learning-What We Can Learn from Expert Examples

inspirational quote

Back to the Future

This TED Talk video gave us an excellent example of a group of at risk, ELL, transient, low income students who were coupled with an amazing teacher, Brian Crosby, who delivered them a quality education via PBL activities such as the balloon project. After cycling through with Mr. Crosby for two years, by the 6th grade these students all had their own blogs, Flickr accounts, were embedding videos about the physics of the balloon project onto their blog sites, using free software to design book covers, writing stories from the point of view of the balloon, engaging with people around the globe about "High Hopes" for their school, community, and the world, and even using Skype to teach other students who had become interested in their projects how to launch their own balloons. One of the most touching things I learned from their experiences was the fact Mr. Crosby and his students were determined to include Celeste, a home-bound leukemia student, in their class even though she was unable to attend in person. What a lesson in humanity for these young students! So in addition to all the content the students were gaining about science and technology, they were also learning compassion for each other and acceptance. What more could any student, teacher, administrator, or parent ask for out of a class??

Blended Learning Cycle

Paul Andersen developed the Blended Learning Cycle as a means to engage students in a more student centered, inquiry based learning where students are able to explore, explain, expand, and then evaluate what they have learned while using an online, mobile classroom. Using the acronym QUIVERS, Paul created 6 steps to the Blended Learning Cycle:

1. QUestion (Hook to grab student attention)
2. Investigation/Inquiry
3. Video
4. Elaboration (readings,diagrams)
5. Review (teacher meets with students to ask probing questions for understanding)
6. Summary quiz (evaluation)

Although when compared to PBL, the Blended Learning Cycle resembles a more traditional classroom approach, however, the aspects of student engagement through investigation, and elaboration break away from the totally teacher centered environment.

Making Thinking Visible

This video is a promotional for Mark Church's Book, Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners. I went to the Amazon store and found the following description of the book:

A proven program for enhancing students' thinking and comprehension abilities
Visible Thinking is a research-based approach to teaching thinking, begun at Harvard's Project Zero, that develops students' thinking dispositions, while at the same time deepening their understanding of the topics they study.? Rather than a set of fixed lessons, Visible Thinking is a varied collection of practices, including thinking routines?small sets of questions or a short sequence of steps?as well as the documentation of student thinking.?Using this process thinking becomes visible as the students'?different viewpoints are expressed, documented, discussed and reflected upon.

Helps direct student thinking and structure classroom discussion
Can be applied with students at all grade levels and in all content areas
Includes easy-to-implement classroom strategies

What I was able to learn from the video was students were interacting in with each other in conversation about a topic, sharing, engaged, articulating their opinions in words and in writing, summarizing, and conceptualizing content. All very positive exchanges and most definitely skills students need to be able to know and practice in the 21st century.

PBL by Dean Shareski

This video highlighting a Canadian school, Dean Shareski points out students would have a hard time telling you exactly which subject area they were actually going to during a class period because they don't learn in segmented subjects, thanks to a restructured PBL environment encouraged by their Social Studies, Language Arts, and Technology teachers. What they have been able to accomplish with the approval of administration is keeping students in a blocked schedule of time so they could earn three credit hours, but not have to chop up the time between the three core classes. Instead, the three teachers blended their curriculum so students can work on the content at their own pace to have them understand the content at a deeper level with the incorporation of technology-based, relevant projects. Students produce projects which bring them pride, ownership, and and an understanding of subjects beyond the curriculum such as poverty and citizenship. Teachers laud PBL because of how students respond to their own learning, and how they are able to reach higher levels of meaning.

Roosevelt Elementary's PBL Program

Roosevelt Elementary School's video, to me, provides the best examples of true Project Based Learning. Students are engaged in integrated, in-depth themes while solving real-world problems using research to answer essential questions. The culminating product of each PBL activity is a project which must be presented to an audience of peers, parents, or community members. Throughout the process, teachers collaborate to provide the appropriate subject matter and state standards to the students, and students engage in the process of preparing a product of their own choice through independent work, cooperative learning, and begin exposed to how to communicate with others in a real life setting. Teachers are easily able to adapt content for multiple levels of intelligence, integrate many subject areas, and help students build background knowledge. Students find through their ability to select their own presentations they have a voice which allows them to feel empowered, creative, and ignites a "spark" of interest to learn more about the world around them. Additionally, students become more aware of the meaning of community and their connection as a citizen, especially when community members are asked to participate as an authentic audience and provide feedback when students present their final projects. Parents are pleased with how their children are exposed to public speaking at an early age and are able to articulate their knowledge to an audience. Overall, I feel PBL should be incorporated into every school across the nation in order for our students to gain the necessary skills to be competitive in the 21st century global society.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tips from Anthony Capps about PBL

project based learning

After reviewing the audio interview with Dr. Strange and Anthony Capps, there were a few things which resonated with me as they discussed the facets of Project Based Learning. Primarily, I was left with the thought Mr. Capps must feel a huge amount of gratitude to be able to work in a school with an administrator who is supportive of teachers incorporating PBL, and a school system who is committed to providing technology to each student in Baldwin County. Additionally, it seemed to be an attribute to the leadership in the system to have Anthony on board as they have recognized his ability not only to be a great classroom instructor, but also an example among his peers. Thus, listening to his words of advice, even as a young whip, gave me reason to take notice of what he had to say.

I decided to break down a few of his points by topic.

PBL and Classroom Management

1. Make sure the Essential Question is relevant to the students.
2. Provide plenty of options for student products (student voice and choice).
3. Assign reasonable amounts of work (chunking) with a series of checkpoints.
4. As the teacher, prepare, prepare, prepare!

Tips for Incorporating New Technology Tools

2. Pick one tool, learn to use it, and then add another one.
3. Can't learn it all overnight, but must do it every night.
4. Show kids in whole group, and then allow them to explore in small groups.

Tips for Incorporating PBL

1. Introduce one of the 8 aspects of PBL at a time. ( has the list of 8)
2. Build upon each until all have been learned.
3. Teach components explicitly so students will understand goal of project and it is meaningful to them.

PBL and Administrators

1. Start with pocket of teacher volunteers
2. Pilot to rest of school
3. Require PD to rest of teachers (books and research made available)

Authentic Audience Examples

1. Peers
2. Younger grades
3. Older grades
4. Work hanging in hallway
5. Blog posts
6. Parents
7. Elf on the Shelf
8. Partners in Education
9. City Council
10. State Representatives

Parents and PBL Assessment

1. Make sure parents stay abreast of assessment requirements and any changes or modifications.
2. Provide ample opportunities for parents to stay informed.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

C4T Rotating Weekly

teacher blogs

Lee Kolbert

This is my response to why Lee Kolbert, A Geeky Momma, is opposed to an app called Four Square. Although I was not familiar, at least now I am forewarned:

I, too, have been assigned by my college professor to follow your blog, and up until reading this post, wasn't familiar with 4sq, but now will be alerted not to download the app. I will, however, keep your blog in my feed as I find your topics interesting to follow. Thank you for your attention to detail and your visually appealing site.

Dean Shareski

Dean Shareski, Community Manager for Discovery Education Canada, blogged about the coolest thing that happened on his 50th birthday. As a result of his connections online and through his PLN, or what he likes to call his "Personal Living Network", he received 80+ pairs of socks from people within his circle. Some he knew, some he did not, and he wasn't even sure who was responsible for coordinating the effort. However, he was certain of the "joy and meaning" he received from people he's met and places he's visited online. I wasn't able to leave a comment for Dean because I wasn't sure how to do it. Actually, I didn't see comments left on any of his posts. You can check out his blog here. I liked the layout a lot.

Jenny She

Jenny She is a teacher in New Zealand who has been teaching her 6 year old students how to blog. I am so impressed with how well these young students have been able to grasp not only the technological concepts of blogging, but the reflective concepts of writing about what they have learned. Her class blog, Little Voices, Little Scholars was listed by Bill Ferriter, William Chamberlain and Pernille Ripp as one of the top classroom blogs worth exploring. You can check it out here. Below is my comment to Mrs. She:

Hello Mrs. She! I am visiting to you from Alabama in the United States, and I love that your students have such a great relationship with you and how you've incorporated the use of a variety of technology tools at such an early age. They will remember you forever, and your acceptance of their creativity is an example of an excellent teacher. Thank you so much for sharing your class blogs, and I have enjoyed reading your students' posts as well from your Little Voices page. They are such inspiring young minds!

C4K March Assignments

comments for kids

Little Voices, Little Scholars
Pt England School

I absolutely LOVED the video Danielle posted about Harold, the Giraffe. The New Zealand accent is just to die for! This is the comment I posted to Danielle on her blog site.

Hello, Danielle! I, too, am visiting to you from Alabama in the United States. Thank you for allowing us to post our comments about your awesome story of Harold, the Giraffe! I LOVE your accent!! Since I saw your video, I've been trying to make my Southern Alabama accent sound like one from New Zealand! I think it's awesome you're blogging at such a young age and sharing what you're learning in the classroom with people all around the world. What is your favorite thing about blogging? I am a librarian in an elementary school, and have thoroughly enjoyed listening to your story. Keep up the great work, Danielle!!

Click here to view the school picnic video from the Little Voices, Little Scholars blog posted by Hine.

This is the comment I left for Hine:

Hello! I am happy to have the opportunity to meet you and your classmates through a connection with my college professor at the University of South Alabama in the United States. I enjoyed watching the video of your school picnic, and I must tell you the red hats are awesome! You all looked like you were having a wonderful time. Did you make the video yourself using Animoto, and is it easy to use? Great job, and thanks for sharing!

Isiah is a relatively new student to the class, joining the group in February. So far, his only post is a photo welcoming him to the class. Here is my comment to Isaiah:

Hello, Isaiah! It's nice to meet you and your classmates through my college professor at the University of South Alabama in the United States. It looks like you have a wonderful teacher and lots of fun ways to learn new things in school. What is your favorite thing about using technology in your classroom?

Ms. Lagitupu's Class in New Zealand

Hiwarau blogged about walking to a nearby college for physical fitness classes with 12 year students. They learned to play a game called "Tiggy". I wasn't familiar, so I looked it up, and here's what I found out about it. Below is the comment I posted to Hiwarau about his experience:

Hello, Hiwariau! I am visiting to you from Alabama in the United States. Thank you for telling us all about how you learned to play the game Tiggy. I wasn't familiar with the game, so I looked it up on the Internet to learn more about it. It reminded me of a game I used to play when I was a little girl (a LOOOONNNNGGGG time ago) called TAG. Had you played the game before? It sounds like you had a great time going to the college for your physical fitness classes, and it seems like the 12 year students enjoyed it, too! I am impressed with your blogging skills. Keep up the great work

Shyla posted a video clip of her swimming lessons to go with her blog about how much she likes her instructor and that New Zealand is surrounded by water. Here's what I wrote to her:

Hello, Shyla! I am visiting to you from Alabama in the United States, and have enjoyed reading about your swimming lessons. I remember taking swimming lessons at a local pool when I was a very young girl, and even remember the color of the bathing suit I wore for my very first lesson. It was yellow with a little blue whale stitched on the chest. When you mentioned keeping your leg straight, I thought about how we would hold on the sides of the pool and practiced kicking and keeping our legs straight. I am glad you are learning to swim and like your instructor. What's your favorite part about your lessons? Keep up the great work with your blog, Shyla. It's wonderful reading about what you're learning

Calvin blogged about Tiaki Taonga, his school's motto for the year, which means caring for people and caring for things. I am totally into this mantra, and this is what I wrote to Calvin on his blog:

I am visiting to you from Alabama in the United States, and I absolutely LOVE the idea of Tiaki Taonga! I think everyone around the whole world should adopt the idea of caring for people and caring for things. Did you know your blog today has given someone on the other side of the world a new way of saying they care for other people? I can't wait to share with my students at my school where I am a librarian what I learned from you today! Thank you for sharing your blog with us. Tiaki Taonga. What are you doing to make other people feel special? Well, I can tell you one way you've done it so far is by sharing your thoughts here so others like me can learn new things! Great job, Calvin. Keep up the excellent work, and I will do my part to share your motto of Tiaki Taonga!

Ava is a 6 year old in Aukland, New Zealand. I am so impressed with how these young students are already using blogs on a regular basis to share their work. Ava, in Ms. Garden and Mr. Goodman's class, posted a document showing which math strategies she has been able to achieve thus far. Thinking about a 6 year old blogging, creating and uploading documents, and reflecting on their work is really a fantastic thing. Here's what I shared with Ava on her blog site.

Hello, Ava! I'm visiting your site from Phenix City, Alabama in the United States. Thank you for letting me see how you're using technology to show others what you're doing at school. I'm happy to see you're learning such cool things in math! I have always enjoyed math, and I love how you're able to show examples of what you're able to do using your blog site. Did you create this document on your own? If so, how did you do it? I also really like how you used graphics and an explanation of the strategies you are able to use to add and subtract. Great job with your blog site. Keep up the good work!

Elizabeth brings us a partially completed presentation about the native tree of New Zealand, the Harakeke. Here is what I wrote to her about one of my favorite trees in Alabama:

Hello, Elizabeth! I am visiting to you from Alabama in the United States, and am happy to know you are learning about your native trees! I love botany (the study of plants), and one of my favorite trees here in the southern United States of America is the tulip tree, or Liriodendron tulipifera. In the fall of the year, the leaves turn a gorgeous, bright yellow. Your native tree of New Zealand is also very beautiful, and I am impressed with your presentation so far. What is the most interesting fact you have learned during your research? I can't wait to see your finished product. Keep up the great work, Elizabeth!

Pou shared a ROBOT PATH which was right up my alley! This is what I wrote to him:

Hello, Pou! I am visiting you from Alabama in the United States, and I LOVE robots! I actually was a robotics teacher for about four years before becoming a librarian. Great job with your presentation! Did you actually program a robot to travel the path you showed? When I taught robotics, we build robots using LEGOs, then programmed them to perform tasks on the computer. What fun! Thank you for sharing your robot path with us on your blog. Great job!

Blog Post #7- "21st Century Learning and Communication Tools"

technology tools

Turning a classroom into a 21st century learning environment can be a daunting task considering the rapid pace at which technology tools change as well as the extensive number of tools from which to choose. Additionally, teachers must be able to select tools which contain a balanced mixture of student learning, skills acquisition, and quality engagement as well as analyze the effectiveness of select tools based on student products as a result of utilizing them. Thus, before blindly reaching into the proverbial "digital toolbox", one might find it helpful to consult with other professionals, as I did, who have test driven and reviewed many of the technology tools now trending. One of my personal PLN favorites is The Adventures of Library Girl, a blog by Jennifer LaGarde. The following presentation of hers entitled, "Technology is Not Transforming Education...YOU ARE!", tied in nicely with this week's topic, so I thought I'd share it here.

The "In-Class Flip"

I found this concept very interesting in light of the recent idea of a "Flipped Classroom" where students watch video lectures at home and practice/homework takes place in the classroom. Instead, the "In-Class Flip" uses the same idea of video lectures, but students rotate through centers with the lecture being one stop in the rotation. This way, the teacher is in control of what is being viewed, the problem with having technology at home to view lectures is eliminated, and the teacher is freed up to help students doing small group or independent work.

The following video shows you how it works.



Storify is a relatively new concept which combines the idea of blogging with the ability to integrate other elements from social media to create a "story" of your own. Like blogger, Storify still allows users to upload images and create original text. However, what it does differently is allows the user to integrate other people's voices into your own content with tools used to extract Tweets, Flikr or Instagram images, and YouTube videos which can be interwoven into your own story. According to a review of Storify on, the overall features make this tool an effective way to powerfully illustrate stories, ideas, or concepts.

storify review on

Here is an overview of Storify on Vimeo as well.

If you're wondering how this technology tool can help students, check out this blog for four ways to use Storify in the classroom.

Poll Everywhere

Poll Everywhere

The last tool I chose to review is Poll Everywhere. The idea is simple. Using mobile devices, Poll Everywhere allows an audience to respond to questions, and the results are immediately displayed on the web in PowerPoint or Keynote presentations. Imagine how students would be engaged if a teacher allowed them to use their cell phones to participate in classroom discussions which showed live results!! Here's a Vimeo showing an overview of how it works. Also, according to, Poll Everywhere received a 9.5 out of 10 rating for its fun, interactive polls. The only downside is this tool isn't free, yet relatively inexpensive considering the features. Pricing options are available by clicking here.

Alabama Learning Exchange Resources

Alabama Learning Exchange

The Alabama Learning Exchange is an excellent resource for locating all courses of study for each grade level, plus provides ample lesson plan ideas and source information directly correlated to state standards. All the PDF files I saved can be located on my website at under the ALEX Resources tab in the navigation pane. They are also provided below with a brief description of each item.

By creating a Personal Workspace account in ALEX, users are able to bookmark lesson plans, submit lesson plans which conform to specific guidelines, and even create a teacher web pages with district level approval. Click here to see my Personal Workspace account showing lesson plans I have bookmarked.

Because I am in an elementary school Grades K-5, I chose one course of study from kindergarten and one from 5th grade. Click here for the PDF showing the objectives for Kindergarten Science, and click here to view the objectives for 5th grade English Language Arts. I also chose to upload the Technology Standards for grades K-2. You can view the PDF by clicking here.

When searching for lesson plans, I noticed some had "College and Career Ready showcase lesson plan" in the descriptor. I selected two which included this phrase in hopes I would find them to be excellent lessons for later use. The first lesson I chose is entitled "Find the Fat" which falls into three subject areas: Health (K), Technology Education (K-2, and English Language Arts (K-2). The following is the exact description of the lesson plan from the ALEX website.
Students will experiment with and evaluate healthy and unhealthy foods. Students will take digital pictures and view during a class discussion about fat content in foods. Students will watch a video about healthy eating and exercise and respond to the experience through writing and drawing. This is a College- and Career-Ready Standards showcase lesson plan.

The second lesson plan I selected is entitled "Who's Talking" for 5th grade Engligh Language Arts based on the Newberry Award winning book, Belle Prater's Boy, which is a story of a girl named Gypsy from Virginia in the early 1950's whose mother disappears one early fall morning without a trace. The following is the exact description of the lesson plan from the ALEX website.

Use literary elements to show students similarities and differences of today's society to the past. This is a College- and Career-Ready Standards showcase lesson plan.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Randy Pausch's Last Lecture-What We Can Learn

You cannot change the cards you are dealt. Just how you play the hand.

If you haven't already seen Randy Pausch's famous "Last Lecture" given to a class of students at Carnegie Mellon University in 2007, make it a priority. Knowing he would soon meet his untimely death at the hands of pancreatic cancer, the speech became a YouTube sensation, and is still one of the most motivating speeches I have ever heard. His simplistic instructions for how to tackle life interspersed with personal stories and photographs make you feel like nothing is impossible, but most of all, grateful for each and every moment of life you're given. He teaches us not to give up, not to feel sorry for ourselves, to persevere, to let children be children, and for us to embrace the child within ourselves. His philosophy of how to live life, how to approach challenges, how to accept change, and how to face life with a "can do" attitude should inspire each of us to live better lives, teach our children to live their best lives, love and respect each other, and see each new day as a gift. Although the lessons learned from the speech made it seem like he was giving away free advice to anyone who would listen, the real genius of the message was that it wasn't really for the general population, but for his kids. You may need tissues like I did.

These are a few of my favorite quotes from the speech:

The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out; the brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. The brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough.

Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted.

Don't complain. Just work harder.

PBL #2 Community Helpers

Community Helpers

Check out the PBL lesson plan called "Community Helpers" on my website. The plan was taken from an example I found from an elementary teacher in Arizona who, along with other staff members, have decided to share their Arizona Teach 21 PBL lesson plans with the global community. I chose this lesson because it was directly connected to the PBL lesson activity I developed called "Meadowlane Park Rangers" and had some of the same objectives for becoming involved community citizens.

Here are links for the lesson overview, checklist, and rubric.

Monday, March 24, 2014

PBL #1 Meadowlane Park Rangers

park ranger

Check out my project based lesson plan, "Meadowlane Park Rangers", on my website under the PBL#1 navigation tab. Students will be working with the city economic development planner to organize a volunteer group to maintain a local park located on the same property as our school. It is an awesome opportunity for students to show community involvement and civic pride!

Questioning Techniques in the Classroom...Are We Asking Enough?

hands raised

As a teacher of 20 years and a mom of a 17 year old son who shares his innermost thoughts like a bear shares honey, I've learned to become better at asking the right questions to solicit answers which require more than monosyllabic grunts, shoulder shrugs, nods, or other nonverbal gestures. The art of asking questions to generate a response which requires thought or logical process requires at least two things: the question should be open-ended and should allow for more than one possible solution. First, an open-ended question is going to eliminate the yes/no response, or the selection/choice response, or identification responses such as "who" or "what". Second, when a question has more than one possible solution, more than one student has an opportunity to participate in the discussion. This keeps the kids in the back of the classroom on their toes, and the kids on the front wondering why they aren't the only ones with opinions. Ha!

Too often, when questions are asked, students are relieved when 3-4 eager beavers keep the teacher happily rolling along by quickly providing responses to close-ended questions without having to insert any effort toward thought or action. Those are the students who need to be challenged to think, and because I taught 8th grade for 17 years, I learned this group was unique in their need to be impressed. So, instead of asking a question like "What is the circumference of a circle?", I would ask "You and a partner have 5 minutes to find any objects in this room to demonstrate how to measure the circumference of a circle. How would you do it?" At the beginning of the year, the students would just look at me and each other like they didn't know if it was actually OK to get out of their desks, but eventually learned I encouraged constructive movement as long as they were working toward a goal and producing a product.

Now that I'm in an elementary setting as a media specialist, I've learned even more about the art of questioning with younger students using techniques such as wait time, whole group response, thumbs up/thumbs down, response cards, and equity sticks. I try to incorporate as many of the same styles as the teachers in the classrooms so when the students come to me for lessons, there is consistency. Therefore, in addition to the open-ended and multiple solution aspects of asking questions, I've learned to use tools to prompt responses from as many students as possible to keep all students engaged and provided with opportunities to demonstrate understanding.

Our school recently was chosen for a site visit during our district Advanc-ED accreditation. Several months of planning went into the process of getting ready for the team's visit, and during our exit interview with the review team, one of areas in which our school received high marks on the ELEOT tool was in the area of Progress Monitoring and Feedback Environment. What did that mean? We were asking the right questions, probing deeply, and providing chances for students to go further with explanations to show understanding. Equally worthy of note was the participation level of the students and a decrease in the amount of distractions and disruptive behaviors.

I found each of the following articles of interest. The first is a list of ten questioning techniques which can be used in the classroom. The second is an article describing the benefits of good questioning for positive classroom management.

EDM 510 Website

under construction

Click here to view my website which is currently under construction. Please pardon my progress!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

C4T Semester Assignment My Choice

library girl image

Jennifer LaGarde, aka the Library Girl, is who I selected for semester long assignment. I already followed her blog and her Twitter account before this class because I think she is an amazing inspiration to me as a media specialist, and feel she gives superior advice on how to keep libraries a vital space in schools. She is from North Carolina, and travels extensively to workshops delivering her "Zombie Apocalypse" speeches to media specialists, administrators, and teachers across the country. The following blog posts are some of my favorites on her page. If you are a media specialist, or an aspiring media specialist, The Adventures of Library Girl should definitely be on your list to follow.

When I first met Jennifer LaGarde last summer at a new librarian conference, she presented the first of her four part series of "How to Survive the Zombie Librarian Apocalypse: How to Begin with the End in Mind". The zombie graphics are her licensed originals, and the content of the material is spot on with needing to stay current as media specialists to avoid becoming complacent. In this first of a four part series, I found that beginning with the end of the year in mind by setting goals, and having data walls to display circulation statistics can be vital to keeping the library program viable in the school. She also gives links to which annual reports to make available to administrators in planning for the new year and budgeting for purchasing new books. The entire post was helpful, and I've written my comments to her below:

The data wall is an excellent idea, and I have actually begun using this data in a newsletter along with the AR data for students and parents. Do you have an assistant to help you, or do you update the wall yourself each month? You mentioned using library helpers to help calculate the data, do you also use student library helpers to assist with circulation and other library tasks? I currently do not have help, but have been using student workers in the morning before school starts.

Moving from Decoration to Documentation

In this post, Jennifer asks four very important questions about the library space.
1. What does this librarian value?
2. What happens in this space?
3. How does what happens here impact student learning?
4. Why do we still need libraries?

The questions posed by Jennifer were to spur each librarian to think about first impressions and to consider how the space of the library should be maximized to show how the work of the library matters to the student who use it. She argues the space of the library should be more than just a place to provide space for books, but for displaying student work and a creative commons area for students to create work.

This is my comment to her post:

I worry sometimes about the space of the library looking messy if an administrator should walk in, but then I'm reminded when students are making a productive mess in the library to create a product, they are using the space as a creative commons, and it's not always going to be a perfectly neat, quiet space. Thank you for the Pinterest anchor charts. I will be excited to share these. I appreciate the direct questions at the beginning of your post which makes me do a reality check about the work I am doing as a librarian and what I need to do to ensure the library space isn't just being used to shelve books.

11 questions that need 11 answers

Jennifer knows how to keep it real, and in this post, she poses 11 questions related to school libraries which deserve answers. What I decided to do it to take the 11 questions and post them on my wall in my office as a reminder for how to strive each day to be better every day, and to provide the best services possible for the students at my school. You can view the 11 questions Jennifer asks by clicking here. My comments to her post are below:

At our next district media specialist meeting, I plan to take a copy of these questions and ask each to answer them by the time we meet at the end of the year. Then, I would like to compile these answers on my blog once I have gotten responses from those who have chosen to participate. It will be interesting to see how our answer align (or not), and how we can use these questions and answers to make all the libraries in our district more viable resources for the students and parents in our community. Would you suggest I ask the answers to remain anonymous? Thanks again for your commitment to the profession.

In this post, Jennifer makes some raises a very important topic about the validity of libraries in today's technology driven society. She highlights two truths about libraries, the first being times have changed, but the library hasn't, and the librarian's work is no longer connected to the goals of the school. The second reality she outlines is that the library has changed, but perception has not, and librarians are helping students make connections, inquire, and participate globally, but those outside the school do not see this as useful yet. She shares an amazing graphic she created to show these two realities and what librarians should do in both situations in her post. Also, she is very candid about the fact there are many schools around the nation which have chosen to shut down their library programs because they have not been shown to provide the schools with enough supporting data to keep them open as viable resources. Therefore, Jennifer continues to point out what is necessary for librarians to do in order to pursue the profession and keep our jobs.

This are my comments to her post below:

I totally agree with both realities you have highlighted in your graphic, and certainly feel it is up to us to find the viability in our programs. Also, the point you made about complaints being actually a request for help is an interesting slant, and I haven't thought of teacher complaints in this light before. What tips can you give for teachers who do nothing but complain when I ask to collaborate? Many of them think collaborating is them emailing me a list of the objectives for the week and me coming up with something for their kids to do when they come to the library. So, I always feel obligated to make it work out, and am doing double or triple the work load to make sure the student needs are met to keep the teachers from complaining about how much they already have to do, AND to keep my position viable.

C4T Rotating Weekly Assignments #1-4

My first teacher assignment was to post to Kathleen Morris who is a teacher in Victoria, Australia. She is currently on maternity leave, but is continuing to make blog posts.
This is my initial response to her post about being on maternity leave, but still continuing to blog and encouraging others to post comments about the upcoming new year:

I am Angel Wilson, Media Specialist at Meadowlane Elementary School in Phenix City, AL (NOT Phoenix, like in Arizona). Currently, I am finishing my certification in Educational Media and am taking a course which involves learning how to create blogs. I have been assigned to you by my professor. Your links to tips for starting blogging really are great tools, especially since I’m relatively new at the experience. I look forward to following your posts, and thank you for including some helpful tips I will be able to share with the teachers and students in my school.

Mrs Kathleen Morris says:
February 7, 2014 at 10:49 am
Hi Angel,
Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m glad my tips were helpful for you. Good luck with the rest of your course!

Pearson logo

The blog I was assigned to this week is Teach Intersect authored by Bill Genereaux.
Click here to view the Teach Intersect blog.

The post (Dated Nov. 22, 2013) to which I made a comment was about a video entitled Victoria's Story: A Vision for the Future of Learning . Bill Genereaux, the blog's author, entreated readers to view the video. After I watched the video, I honestly did not know if I was watching a sci-fi movie, or if I was seeing technology which will become a reality in the near future. The idea behind the technology presented in the video was to provide each student with a handheld device which is attuned to the needs of the learner, makes the use of holograms, and also provides intuitive remediation based on a student's method of answering questions. You have to watch the video to truly understand what I'm talking about. At any rate, I felt the technology and the concept behind it was actually a brilliant tool for helping students learn, however, I was not in agreement with how personal information about a student (such as personal schedules after school) could be accessed immediately by a student's teachers, tutors, etc. It seemed a bit intrusive on a young person's privacy. If something like this ever became available, I would be be remiss to not wonder if the availability of such technology would only be accessed by students whose families could afford it, or by students in a school system wealthy enough to provide it. Here are my exact comments below:

I’m not quite sure what to think of this video yet. There are some amazing concepts for customizing student learning, but the personal information (such as knowing a student’s after-school schedule) seems invasive.

lego blocks

"Everything You Need to Know About Common Core" was the blog post to which I commented this week. Teacher Tom writes about a speech educational historian Diane Ravitch gave denouncing the aims of Common Core. At first an advocate of creating standards which would help students moving from one school district to another achieve the same goals, Ravitch pulled away from assisting with pushing the standards forward primarily because she feels the movement became more of a corporate push than an educational reform. Her full speech can be found It's a worthy read. Teacher Tom's comments to her speech can be found here. My comments to both the speech and Teacher Tom's post are found below:

After reading your post and the speech by Dianne Ravitch, I found myself nodding enthusiastically as I read, acknowledging the changes I have witnessed in our district over the last 10 years, and ones we are experiencing currently with the implementation of Common Core. I am a LMS in the highest poverty K-5 elementary school in our district. This is my second full year in this school, but 20th total year in the same district. The frustrations I dealt with as a teacher throughout the NCLB years, and now with RTTT, and the unreasonable testing goals which could never be feasibly attained to the prescribed percentages, placed and continue to place an overwhelming burden upon teachers and students. Teachers in my building are restricted by scripted lessons and time schedules which nearly completely eliminate teachable moments or veering off topic to discover something new for fear a standard won't be covered in a set amount of time. The overall morale of teachers in the time of my tenure has dropped dramatically, and while there are other contributing factors including major budget cuts and lack of student motivation, the onus of standards, computerized tests, interpreting test results, and data meetings have had significant impact on the attitude of today's teacher in public education.

I appreciate you taking the time to post your findings on such a very important topic. How does CCSS impact you and your students, or will it have any impact for you at all?

6:35 PM

C4T Semester Long Assignment

I was assigned to follow Kathleen Morris who is a teacher in Victoria, Australia. She is currently on maternity leave, but is continuing to make blog posts. I have really gained a lot of great information from the posts she has made, and am enjoying using the PDF files she is willing to share on her blog. Many of them I have been able to share with the teachers at my school as well. Below are the comments I have made to her posts.

This is my initial response to her post about being on maternity leave, but still continuing to blog and encouraging others to post comments about the upcoming new year.

I am Angel Wilson, Media Specialist at Meadowlane Elementary School in Phenix City, AL (NOT Phoenix, like in Arizona). Currently, I am finishing my certification in Educational Media and am taking a course which involves learning how to create blogs. I have been assigned to you by my professor. Your links to tips for starting blogging really are great tools, especially since I’m relatively new at the experience.
I look forward to following your posts, and thank you for including some helpful tips I will be able to share with the teachers and students in my school.

Mrs Kathleen Morris says:
February 7, 2014 at 10:49 am
Hi Angel,
Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m glad my tips were helpful for you. Good luck with the rest of your course!

If you are needing a great resource for starting a classroom blog, this is it. Kathleen has put together an excellent guide for getting started. This is my comment to her post. You can find the PDF file at the bottom of the blog post as well.

What a wonderful resource for beginning a classroom blog. Thank you for the extensive amount of information you've provided for beginners like myself. I am in the infant stages of a personal blog, but would love to start blogging with students about books they've read, or books they would recommend for others to read. Do you know any media specialists you would recommend I follow who use blogs? I have downloaded the PDF, and appreciate you sharing your expertise.

I really thought this was an excellent set of free Web tools with explanations for how each tool can be used by teachers or students and what type of product can be produced. I have shared this list of tools with the teachers in my school, and the list is available in a PDF file at the bottom of the post. This is my comment to her post below:

This is an amazing list of free tools. I have used some of them, but there are several here I look forward to trying out. Have you used AnswerGarden before? It works by you posting a general question, then as users submit answers, they are generated in a cool word cloud which can be exported to Wordle or Tagxedo. Check it out at It's free and doesn't require a login. Thanks again for your great list of web tools!

Internet safety continues to be a topic of concern, and Kathleen has put together a set of three posters for parents, students, and teachers with safety guidelines. I downloaded all three posters, and shared them with my colleagues. You can find the posters in a PDF file at the end of the post. My comments to her are below:

Wonderful set of guidelines for responsible Internet users. As an educator, I am always mindful of my personal behavior on social networking sites and feel it is important for all educators to follow your guidelines as well. I also agree with several others who have liked the acronym YAPPY. Did you coin this yourself, and if so, kudos! What a catchy way to remember what information not to give out. Great job with content and design of the posters, and thank you for sharing them with us.

C4K Assignments #1-4

working out on mats

This was my first post to a student, and Jerry was describing his first day in gymnastics class. You can read about it here. It took me back to old times, and I enjoyed writing to him about what I remembered in elementary school about PE class. This is what I wrote to him:

Hello from Alabama, Jerry! I, like Megan, am a graduate student in the online program at the University of South Alabama in the United States of America. Besides attending school online, I am a full time elementary school media specialist (librarian), so it's great to see you are blogging your experiences so others, like myself, can learn about people around the world.

When I was young like yourself, I remember enjoying PE class, but never had an opportunity to learn gymnastics. It sounds like you had a great first day on the mats, and were excited about your stretching exercises. I think exercising is great, and really love doing yoga.

Thanks for your post, and keep up the great work blogging and enjoying your classes!

padlet app icon

"What Goes Around Comes Back Around" is the theme for the wall created by the student's post I viewed this week. Kumiani's wall can be viewed by clicking here. I was intrigued with the app, Padlet, used to create the wall. I haven't used the app before, but have enough interest now to try to use it. It seems to give the user space to create a moving wall of images where text can be created to scroll on top. I really enjoyed this post, and my comments can be viewed below:

Hi! My name is Angel and I’ve been assigned to follow your blog by my professor, Dr. Strange, in a micro computing in education cours. I am a Library Media Specialist and am completing my certification online through the University of South Alabama. I am a 20 year veteran to education, and blogging is relatively new to me, so I’m thankful for the chance to see a variety of blogs, especially ones created using tools I’ve yet to discover. I really like the wall you created using Padlet. Was this your first time designing a wall? Where did you get the topic idea for creating it? Your photos and text match the theme well. Great job! Can Padlet be used in Blogger? Thanks for allowing me to comment. Keep up the good work!

peavy predator guitar

The student I was assigned to view on this class page had not yet made any posts, so I chose Breton. He had recently visited his grandparents' house and found a guitar which had belonged to his uncle in the 90's. He was excited his grandpa gave it to him, and I thought it was cool because I've always wanted to learn to play. Here's what he wrote, and below is what I commented to his post:

What a cool thing to find! I have always wanted to learn how to play the guitar. My mother was a piano teacher or 25 years, and I started playing when I was 5, so I thought since I knew how to play piano and read music I could pick up a guitar and play with no problem. NOT!! They are two completely different beasts. How did you learn to play, and did you take lessons or teach yourself how to play? Even though you have a Les Paul, getting one that belonged to your uncle in the 90's is still really cool.

C4S Comment #4

firebears the rescue team

Meagan created a book trailer using iMovie. You have to check it out! I am so going to do this with my students. I was inspired by this post, and couldn't wait to get started making my own book trailer. You can see Meagan's trailer by clicking here.

This is my response to her post:

LOVE the book trailer! I am currently working with a group of 5th graders to make book commercials for titles linked to topics taught in the classroom. Did you use iMovie to produce this? Also, did you use images from a vendor site, or did you take your own pictures of the book pages? The music and text had me sitting on the edge of my seat!!

Meagan even responded back:

Thank you so much! I actually scanned the images into iPhoto to edit them. From there I added them to iMovie and placed the pictures with the music adding text where needed.

C4C Rotating Weekly Assignments Posts #1-4

Plagiarism wordle

Sarah pointed out in her post students should be shown how to properly cite resource early in their education so as to avoid plagiarism, and ways to prevent it. Her complete post can be found by clicking here.

This is the response I gave to her post:

I am glad you pointed out the need to make students aware of how to cite resources in elementary school to establish a pattern for crediting others' work. The third grade teachers at my school recently asked me to help their students create photo collages in PowerPoint highlighting an animal of their choice. When we started searching for images to include, I explained the photos they found did not belong to them, and showed them how to reference the sources for their collages. Almost all of the students I helped were not aware of plagiarism, or how to avoid it. What grade level do you think is the best for starting a conversation about plagiarism?


T'Keyan's post highlighted what she thought were the top six search engines for people to use, not necessarily related to educational research, but for general use such as rating professors or job searches. You can view her post by clicking here.

This is my response to her post entitled "My Top Six Search Engines".

I liked how you included search engines which were not necessarily used only for educational research, but for other useful information such as Monster and Rate My Professor. Which ones of these engines have you had experience using prior to this assignment, and which ones, if any, do you use on a regular basis? I have only briefly used the Wolfram Alpha for this assignment, but found it interesting since the answers provided are generated from a database and require no additional searches to arrive at an answer. Also, out of the search engines you researched, did you discover a new favorite?

dancer silhouette

Allison posted a digital story of her daughter entitled "A Dancer's Story". The tale highlights the life of a young dancer with lovely photos and an excellent song selection to match the story's theme. This is my comment to Allison's video post:

Beautiful story of a beautiful dancer. I have a very dear friend, Shane Hall, who is a professional dancer, choreographer, costume designer, and studio owner. Although I have never been a dancer myself, I have seen the intense amount of work it takes to become an accomplished artist, and I admire anyone who has the talent and determination to do so. Great job relating your story. The music was a wonderful fit!

Ramsey gave a very thorough review of Khan Academy, and I found his thoughts as a math instructor to be constructive, yet thought provoking with regard to how answers to a math question can be derived in several different ways, yet the academy may only show one solution. His full post can be read by clicking here.

My response to Ramsey's thoughts are below:

Your thoughts of Khan Academy fall in line with mine after having read reviews of both proponents and critics. Many of the critics feel the videos lack structure and pedagogy, but yet give credit for the instructional videos being useful as a resource. Like yourself, I agree the resources should be used to supplement content, provide extra practice, or even provide alternate methods for arriving at a solution, but not as an isolated tool for understanding content. I can see where clicking on hints just to arrive at the answer might subtract from what a user could learn, but I feel the hints would be helpful for students who are very reluctant to learn math, especially younger students. Have you created a personal profile on the site, and have you used the site before this assignment? If so, did you use it for your own personal benefit, or to help students? Good job formulating your thoughts!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Project #3 Presentation

Project Based Learning

technology chalboard
The focus of the conversations between Dr. Strange and Mr. Capps in the videos discussing PBL primarily were directed toward creating student centered, technology enriched classroom environments where students are challenged to ask questions, research, produce products, share, revise, and reflect with the purpose of becoming globally adept, responsible, productive 21st century savvy citizens. In this new century of learning, the paradigm in education is shifting from the mundane, boring, pencil and paper, rote memorization doldrums (of some teachers) into the collaborative, engaged classrooms where students are realizing a new sense of ownership and pride in their education, and acquiring new skills through schools who are offering Project Based Learning opportunities. While PBL may sound like a new educational buzzword, the concept has actually been around since the times of Confucius and Aristotle, both teachers of inquiry and "learning by doing", who advocated asking questions and seeking answers by using logic and reasoning. Just as those teachers promoted critical thinking skills, other great teachers, psychologists, and philosophers throughout history such as Dewey, Montessori, and Piaget presented models of learning with "life experiences" at the core1.

As a twenty year veteran, and a lifelong learner, I can honestly say I have been a proponent of "doing" and "experiencing" throughout my entire career, even before the introduction of the ACCRS and technology tools. When I was listening to Mr. Capps tell the story of the "big wigs" come into his classroom and his students were in the floor doing an art activity, it reminded me of my first year teaching 8th grade science, and my students constructing huge double helix DNA ladders in the floor of my classroom. (Again, this was 20 years ago.) A colleague's gifted son was in my class that year. Four years later when he graduated, she sent me a thank you card telling me I was the only reason he looked forward to coming to school that year because I challenged him to think, and referenced the DNA models in the note. Later in my career, I started the first LEGO Robotics Engineering Lab at our school which was the quintessential project based learning classroom. When Mr. Capp spoke of student interest, content standards, authentic audience, and community involvement, the robotics lab included all of those things.

One of the things Andy mentioned with regard to PBL I took down as a direct quotation was
You're gonna get more than you expect.
I can definitely say I have experienced this feeling with students who produced robotics projects which far exceeded what I expected them to create. Students would be given projects where they would build robots to complete tasks, and I was continually amazed at the variety of ideas students were able to generate for ways in which to solve the same problem. I can remember students thinking at the beginning of a project they would never be able to complete it, but by the end of it being so proud of what they had accomplished, and what they had learned along the way. Other aspects of PBL Anthony mentioned in the video I was able to confirm through my experiences with the robotics lab was the sense of ownership, the level of student choice. There really isn't anything but praise I can give for programs like what Anthony is using in his classroom for I have personally witnessed the benefits. Students love it, administrators support it, parents become involved with it, and the community will volunteer to help with it.

The Alabama College and Career Ready Standards were developed out of necessity, partially in response to continued evidence from international assessments such as PISA and TIMSS which showed the US falling continually falling behind other countries in performance. Therefore, because our graduates are competing for jobs in a global, technology driven market, and our economy depends on a higher set of knowledge and skills, the standards which drive the instruction in the classroom has had to change in order to accommodate the needs of the learner. Thus, technology usage in the classroom and the incorporation of project based learning is in demand.2

The questions raised in my mind after having viewed the conversations in the videos, and also having a decent grasp on project based learning are these:

1. How do teachers persuade administration to buy into PBL, especially if there is a district developed pacing guide?
2. How much autonomy do teachers have in deciding which projects to choose?
3. What type of training, if any, is required to begin using project based learning?
4. Can problem based learning be implemented in schools with limited technology tools?
5. What are the best ways in which to assess projects created as a result of problem based learning?

Additionally, in response to the charge to locate 12th grade standards for writing, I have included a chart below to include the 12th grade writing strand standards from the Alabama Insight Tool.