Final reflections?

So the course of Power Tools in Education has ended, and I am struggling to put my final thoughts into words. Why am I having this road block? Well, after several days of thinking and typing only a few words, I have concluded it’s hard to explain something that just is. For instance, how do you explain a habit or a idiosyncrasy? That’s how I feel about explain how I use some of these technology features in my daily life…it’s hard to explain something that is now a habit. Reading my Pulse RSS feed on my iPad, checking classmates bogs, and even scrounging around the Internet for educational websites…it has become a part of my life.

Not only has this course exposed me to more “teacher friendly technology” such as specific apps like StoryCreator, or websites like Scholastic; it has also provided me with skills that I’ll use in the classroom, like working on an IWB. I’m crossing my fingers that I get to student teach in a classroom with an IWB because I think it not only has great lessons, but it also gets kids engaged and active in their our learning experience. For my own IWB lesson I used SmartExchange. This site has a plethora or SMART lessons to download and then adapt to our own classroom needs.

But additionally, this course provided me with opportunities to learn more about the abundant (and almost underground) Web 2.0 teaching world I had never even imagined that existed! What amazing adventures students and teachers are having with the Flipped Classroom! To think that I could “teach” a virtual lesson and then spend class time on the actual learning experience is so practical, yet is innovative.

All in all, this class really got me jazzed up about using technology in the classroom! I’ve had many of these tools at my fingertips but now I am able to use them in a more productive and educational way….and the best part of all, I WANT to use them more.

Just as Ariel says in her song “Part of Your World”:

I’ve got gadgets and gizmos a-plenty
I’ve got whozits and whatzits galore
You want thingamabobs?
I’ve got twenty!
But who cares?
No big deal
I want more.

I have the tools…but I want more, and I want to use them more.

I guess we will see what happens… 🙂

Education website I love!

For an assignment we had to review a few educational apps/websites. I reviewed the website ABCya.com. It’s a FREE website full of educational kids games! I used it in the Autism K-2 self-contained classroom that worked in this past school year. The kids LOVED it, especially when we hooked a computer up to the interactive white board…big screen!!!

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Featured in The New York Times App Smart Column, in Disney Family Fun Magazine, and on NCS-Tech.org, this teacher-created website provides a fun and educational space for elementary students. With free online Flash capabilities, students grades K to 5 are invited to play educational and kid-friendly games. Easy to navigate, children can meander through the site, engaging in age-appropriate virtual games and activities. This site is divided by grade levels as well as into categories, Letters, Numbers, More (shapes, Social Studies, Art) and Holidays. Children can play independently on the computer, or join together playing the game on an interactive white board. This is a safe website, does not require a login to play, and can be used even with young students (Kindergarten). Additionally, this website has developed games for the iPad that can be downloaded at a minimal cost.

I would recommend this website for teachers, parents and their kiddos. Teachers can model and enhance lessons, and students can play virtual educational games. Mom or Dad will be happy to know their babies are involved in learning games with age-appropriate content. It is a safe website that you can trust, and feel good knowing your children are learning at the same time.

The only real downside I see is that it does have banner adds which may distract or even lead kids to other websites. Also, you can’t save data or student progress, but it will provide you with a raw score and percentage correct at the end of most games on the screen.

PS….for lower grades, you don’t have to be able to read the directions as many of the games tell you what to do! It’s a nice feature for your students who are young, struggle with reading, or who are even English Language Learners.

I hope you all try it out. Let me know what you think and feel free to share more engaging educational games that you use in your home or classroom.

Let’s make learning fun!

Funny or sexist technology humor?

So I’m reading through my RSS feeds on my Pulse app for the iPad and I came across this article from Gizmodo. I’m really not sure how to interpret it. At first glance it has some cute humor, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt that it just perpetuated the gender stereotype that women are not good with computers or technology. I understand that the author may have a mother that is not tech-savvy, but I don’t think that it’s fair to say all mother are not tech-savvy, to say the least.

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Growing up, I was told that I could be anything I wanted if I worked hard for it, that education was the key to my future, and that girls and boys were equal. My mom mowed the lawn, my dad did the dishes, and vice versa….it didn’t matter what sex you are, things needed to get done, even if society thought it to be “man’s work” or “woman’s work”. I graduated college with a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies, and am now at women’s college, working on my Master of Arts in Teaching for special education. My classes consist of females, a good number who are mothers, and who are future-educators that are using technology with ease. My professors are female; they are highly educated and are in no way naive when it comes to using the computer. So, it makes me wonder, how fair is this article/cartoon? Is it really “funny”? Or is it an easy laugh, in which society is perpetuating an antiquated, and sexist stereotype?

My heart aches a little because I know that some people still believe that women cannot do as much as men, especially in the STEM fields. (For those of you who don’t know what STEM is, it stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). Why do we have an over abundance of males in these majors in college, but few females? Are we sending messages to our girls that they are not skilled in these areas of academia? Even on the Gizmodo site, there are 16 males on staff, and only two females. What is going on here? Maybe, just maybe, society needs to stop and think about the things we publish that may be considered “humor”, especially when it encompasses gender stereotypes and one’s sex defining one’s ability.

Food for thought

“Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is most important.” _Bill Gates

Bill is on to something here… I believe that we, as educators, have a responsibility to use technology as a teaching tool. We must first learn how to use it, then teach our students appropriate ways to use technology in their educational journey.

This quote is very telling to my current endeavors, as I have been working on an IWB (Interactive White Board) lesson for class. We recorded ourselves teaching the IWB lesson to several classmates and are now in the editing phase. It’s a (dare I say, painful) process to watch ourselves on video, but it’s a tremendous opportunity from which to grow. I am seeing how I teach, what I need to change, and what I like. I also am getting a “student’s view” of myself, how I express myself and explain lessons, as well as how I interact with the IWB. Through this experience I was able to download the SMART software on my laptop and dabble in IWB lessons. It’s a bit overwhelming at times because the SMART software seems to provide endless opportunities. I have only begun to learn how to operate and navigate this software, but I am excited to explore more and see what I can create. I look forward to the times in student teaching that I will be able to actively engage students in the lesson by using technology, and the IWB.

Times are changing and technology is transforming the classroom. So long are the days of endless worksheets, copying notes from the chalkboard or overhead projector, or going to the “computer” class elective to play “Oregon Trail”. The availability of technology in the classroom has replaced these antiquated ways of teaching and learning. With this digital evolution, I too must evolve in my own learning and teaching methods, and I feel that this class is a catalyst for such change.

Infographics-what?

A few weeks ago we did a project on a Web 2.0 tool called infographics.  Before this class, I had never heard this term “infographic”, but to my surprise I did have previous experience with them.  You know those posters on Pinterest that display information beautifully in a poster-like format?  Well, that would be an infographic!  By visually representation data in an organized way, you may display a select amount of information that is aesthetically appealing with a functional purpose.  For this assignment we needed to create an infographic that we would use to help teachers understand how to better communicate with families.  I used piktochart to create mine; a user friendly site that made my infographic possible.  If I create another infographic I would likely use this website again.  I was able to login using my Google email and access my previously saved pieces.  Additionally, I could download my infographic and even link it to the website…..I still need to work on embedding though.

Effective Communication with Families Infographic

Have any of you tried to make infographics before?  What do you think of Piktochart as a infographic website?

Another week begins….

So I have decided that I want to blog not only about my graduate course and technology but my evolution with it all. This thought began yesterday, when I was visiting good old Winston-Salem, NC (close to where I grew up). As I waited for a friend to arrive for our lunch date, I noticed myself checking my RSS feeds and blogs…and realized that I truly enjoyed blogs! It was interesting to see how in just a few short weeks ago (approximately three) I had gone from not knowing what RSS was to using one daily, not following or reading blogs except an occasional Pinterest one to now reading them several times a week, and struggling to keep up with the news to now hunting for new and useful teaching apps.

How did this change happen so quickly? Have I crossed over to another way of thinking about and using technology forever, or will I only maintain this attitude for the completion of this class? I wonder about these things, but only time will tell.

I have always thought it would be ‘cool’ (for lack of a better word) if I could maintain a resourceful teaching blog like this one:
Upcycled Education

A Lego school?

Today is a day off from work, but that doesn’t mean it’s a day off from school work. I started my day off with a quick trip to Starbucks and hunkered down on my iPad to read my RSS feed. (I’m using the “Pulse” RSS app from the Apple App Store…it’s free and very user friendly!) One of my semester long assignments is to create and maintain and RSS feed. I already spend too much time on my computer or iPad so this assignment is actually a great way for me to be more productive…more “bang for my buck”, so to speak, when it comes to the time I spend browsing websites vs using an RSS feed. This app allows me to get all my news, headlines, social networking updates, and even my pop culture fix, in one spot. I also feel like I’m more in tune to the world, because it is so easy to get the news! There is no excuse for not knowing what is going on in our world with an easy to use app such as Pulse.

So one of the stories that caught my eye was this one: Lego school in Denmark

It’s a quick read about a new school Lego is opening in Denmark…no, it’s not to become a Lego builder, but they do claim to be engaging and promote learning through a creative lens. The article says, “The school will emphasize fun, creativity, and “playful engagement” to help make learning more enjoyable, but it will still follow a standard curriculum.” Sounds pretty good to me! I think it’s always beneficial to students when they are engaged and motivated to learn…if the Lego company can promote this idea through a school, even better!

I wonder how they will use creativity and fun to engage the students however. I also wonder if they will incorporate technology with their learning too. I think I’m going to investigate a bit more to see. Have any of you heard of this school? What are your thoughts on playful learning? Do you know of any schools like this that also use learning technology?