SLM 508 Reflections

As my Learning Technologies class comes to an end, I am going to take a moment to reflect on all that has happened over the past eight weeks.  I learned about a lot of different types of technology that can be used in the classroom, standards that are in place for students and teachers, and engaged in enlightening discussion on the various topics we covered.  The class has opened my eyes to the importance of technology in the classroom, not just to engage students, but to prepare them to be productive 21st century citizens.

I blogged and tweeted for the first time for this class, and I think that both have their place in education.  I have created screencasts, wikis, and slideshows, not to mention exploring numerous other Web 2.0 tools.  Much of this technology was foreign to me prior to being required to use it for various assignments for this class.  What I learned was that technology is not so scary, and it has the potential to make an educators life infinitely easier.  You just have to be willing to find the correct technology and try it, and usually you will find that it is much easier to work with than you imagined.

I also became more familiar with ISTE’s NETS-T and NETS-S, as well as that AASL’s Standards for the 21st Century Learner.  It is great to have these standards in place, but we need educators that are making an effort to meet them.  I do not mean just throwing technology into a lesson to meet a standard, or retroactively looking at their lessons for the week and deciding that a certain activity qualified as their required use of technology.  I mean teachers that find meaningful ways to include technology in their instruction to enhance the student’s learning experience.  For this to occur, I think that politicians and schools systems must make an effort to make sure that schools are equipped with up to date technology, and that teachers are being trained how to use it effectively.

Now we get to my internet presence, it was non-existent prior to the class, and has not magically gotten better over the last two months.  I do see the importance of having a strong, positive online presence in order to get the job you want, set a good example for your students, and be connected to other educators that can make your life easier.  I see the importance of creating a Professional Leaning Network, and through what I have learned in this class have an idea of how to start getting connected.  Sometimes being a teacher, you may feel isolated, but online there are thousands of people and resources to help, and give you much needed support.

At this moment in time I have every intention to be a cutting edge, technologically sophisticated teacher that will meet the needs of the 21st century learners that will be in my classroom.  Having that mindset is a good start, but now comes the hard part, actually becoming that teacher despite the fact that sometimes technology does intimidate me, and I may find myself in a situation where the administration and my colleagues do not place a high value on implementing technology.  It is my duty to take what I have learned from this class and use it, and beyond that stay up to date with new technology and find like minded individuals that will help me in the areas that I am lacking.  I do not think that will be easy, but I want to be the best teacher that I can possibly be, and in today’s world that means infusing your lessons with technology to engage and excite your students, while preparing them for the world.  I will Google myself in a year, and if the results are similar to what they were at the beginning of the summer then I will have missed out on some great opportunities, and failed myself.     

Learning Log – Wikis

There are a lot of wiki spaces on the web that are created, used, and maintained by educators.  They are a good forum to create collaborative class projects, share information with other educators, and use for professional development.  I was not looking for a particular theme when I searched for education themed wiki spaces. I just looked for wiki spaces that I found interesting.  After combing through many wiki spaces, I narrowed it down to five that I found interesting, useful, or just plain awesome.

The Digital Citizenship WIKI

As the title implies, this wikis space is all about digital citizenship.  It stresses four components of digital citizenship, literacy, safety, learning strategies, and etiquette.  The side menu has links to every grade from first through twelfth.  When you click on a grade level it takes you to a page with age appropriate games, videos, and information sources.  This is a great tool for any educator K-12.  Digital citizenship is something that must be addressed with all 21st century students, and this wiki has an abundance of resources.  It uses games, videos, and humor which are much more appealing to most students than a teacher trying to explain the topic. 

Greetings From The World – GFTW

At first glance this wiki space does not appear to be much, but upon further exploration it is a great place.  It is a network of about thirty teachers, representing every continent except Antarctica.  Each teacher’s class has created several glogs, videos, and photos to teach the world about the area they are from.  This would be a great resource for a social studies teacher to use to find out about major landmarks and cities, as well as the culture of areas around the world.  This site is also looking for more teachers to join the network, so you could use this tool to teach students digital citizenship.  It is also a great way to show students that the internet allows you to connect with people around the globe.

UDL Tech Tool Kit

We have recently been introduced to the Universal Design for Learning, and this wiki space is a great resource to use when trying to implement the principles of UDL in your lessons.  The wiki has “tool kits” for just about every discipline, and the tools, or links, are separated according to student needs.  This wiki has a lot of information if you are looking for ideas about how to create instruction that addresses multiple learning styles and intelligences.

Web 2.0: Cool Tools for Schools

This wiki has an extensive list of Web 2.0 tool that can be used in the classroom.  The tools are separated into categories like presentation tools, collaborative tools, drawing tools, etc.  A short description accompanies each web tool.  There is also a section of resources for teachers that have tools for assessing, professional development, and more.  There are an extensive number of web tools available on this wiki that are neatly organized, and easily accessible.  This is definitely a wiki that I will bookmark, and look into joining.

Terry the Tennis Ball

This is a unique wiki space that I will never use, but the idea behind it was so interesting that I had to explore it.  This is a collaborative storytelling wiki, where the teacher started with the line, “Soon Terry was bouncing, bouncing, bouncing before he”, and the students took it from there.  Creating many separate stories about the adventures of this tennis ball.  What I found interesting was this was done by third and fourth graders, and it was started as an experiment by the teacher.  The teacher wanted to see if the students would be interested in using a wiki as a shared storytelling space.  The teacher found that most students enjoyed participating in this activity and did the work on their own time, at home, and for no credit.  This is the type of social media experience we need to be engaging students in. 

Social and Collaborative Media

My Voice Thread on Social and Collaborative Media

I recently created a Voice Thread on Social and Collaborative Media.  Voice Thread is a web tool that allows you to post images and video along with audio commentary.  There is also an interactive aspect to Voice Thread where viewers are allowed to comment and add to the presentation.  Voice Thread would be an interesting tool to use in the classroom.

The Voice Thread I created on Social and Collaborative Media explore the importance of using social media in classroom instruction.  My Voice Thread talks about the social networking site Goodreads, the social bookmarking site DIIGO, and the classroom blog.  These are three of the possible social media tools that can be used in today’s classroom.  Today’s students are using social networking sites, so educators would be wise to explore the opportunities provided by integrating social networking with their instruction.

Learning Log – Google Docs

Google Document – My Favorite Social Networking Tool

I did not really have any experience using Google Docs, but I see that it can be a useful tool to use in the classroom.  It is a great way to share, and monitor, work.  Instead of suggesting revisions on a hard copy of a student’s work and arranging times to meet to discuss the work, or have the hard copy exchange hands, you can do everything online.  This can save time, paper, and energy.  Google documents is available on any computer with an internet connection.  This means that students can easily access work they do on school computers at home, and vice versa. Creating a Google document would also let students work collaboratively on a project without having to be in the same geographic location.  At their leisure students could work on, revise, and collaborate on a project.  Having students make their work available through Google Docs would also allow students to critique the work of others and to use suggestions from peers to improve their own work.  Knowing that others will be able to view their document may also encourage students to put more effort into their work.  Google Docs seems like a great, and not to mention free and easy, way to share your work with others.

Learning Log – iGoogle


Google has been my homepage for a decade, ever since I found out that co-founder Sergey Brin was a fellow University of Maryland graduate.  Though I may have heard of iGoogle, it never interested me and I never explored the possibilities.  Within minutes of signing into iGoogle I had my Google Reader, Twitter, Google Docs, Gmail, and WordPress accounts prominently displayed in one place.  A few moments later I had gadgets for the time, weather, a calendar, a dictionary, a thesaurus, and a to-do list.  iGoogle is a great way consolidate your various web accounts and to bring information to you.  Another great thing about it is that it is free.

As an educator this could be a great help to keep things organized.  Having everything easily accessible in one place could be a great time saver.  I would not have to worry about neglecting to check my Twitter account or missing the newest additions to my Google Reader account.  Having an up to date to-do list and personalized calendar will remind me every time I open my web browser of what I need to do and what activities I have coming up.  I have often started day planners, paper and digital, and joined promising online services, but as soon as they leave my visual field I neglect them.  Having everything available, organized, and in one place that I access regularly may help to keep me engaged with these things.  On my iGoogle page I can also find inspiration in a quote of the day, a smile from “funny cat photos”, and stay current on late breaking news.

It would also be interesting to have students create their own iGoogle pages.  Of course, they would have to create a Gmail account as well.  Students of all ages access the internet and use search engines, so it would be nice for them to have their own customized space on the web.  This could be a place where students keep a calendar of upcoming events, access information, and express their creativity.  It would be a simple way to increase student’s familiarity with the internet and digital tools.  I think iGoogle is a great tool that can be very helpful.  Unfortunately, when I was signing up I saw that iGoogle was shutting down on November 1, 2013.  That means I do not know how useful this will be to me as an educator.

Picasa Slideshow

Click Here to see my Picasa Slideshow

The Web 2.0 tool that I looked into for this assignment was the Picasa Slideshow.  Picasa is an image hosting service that comes with your Google account.  Creating a slideshow is a very simple process, all you need to do is upload photos and click on the slideshow button.  You could create a slideshow in minutes, or take hours to edit your images appearance.  Picasa slideshows have many classroom applications.  Teachers can use this tool to present an anticipatory set to start a lesson, to add a visual and textual component to their instruction, to document class activities, or to create a portfolio to display student work.  Picasa also has great potential as a tool for students to create their own work.  It could be a great way to create a digital story, document a science experiment, present a book report, or any of a number of other options.  In actuality, Picasa’s classroom applications are only limited by the imagination of the students or teachers creating a slideshow.  What I find most exciting about Picasa is that it is easy enough that students in the lower elementary levels should be able to create projects using this web tool.

For my digital product I created an anticipatory set for a lesson on the Water Cycle.  This slideshow is meant to engage students and get them interested in the lesson’s content.  I tried to provide everyday examples of the processes that occur in the water cycle.  Hopefully by tying a concept like condensation to the moisture on the bathroom mirror after a hot shower or the appearance of sweat of a cold can of soda will give the students a connection to the process.  This topic aligns with standard 2.E.1.a of Maryland’s fifth grade science curriculum.  The objective of this standard is for students to be able to explain how water on the Earth changes.  Hopefully, the slideshow I created will give an overview of the water cycle, and have students begin to gain an understanding of how water changes during the water cycle.